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Montgomery County's Department of Environmental Protection Searching for New Site for Larger, Modernized Recycling Facility; Examining Robotics

For Immediate Release: Thursday, July 25, 2019

At a time when jurisdictions across the nation are reconsidering aspects of their recycling programs, Montgomery County is continuing its commitment to increase recycling and reduce trash. The County has announced it is searching to find industrial properties that would allow expansion and modernization of its recycling operations. Modernized technology for sorting of recycled materials now includes optical sorters and robotics.

 The County’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is considering partnering with other counties in the region, which may allow for a broader, optimized solution.

The County’s Department of General Services, on behalf of DEP, has issued the search notice, asking that submissions be forwarded by 3 p.m. on Sept. 20. The County will consider both vacant and improved industrial land. Details of the solicitation are available at https://tinyurl.com/y4zdaoos.

Montgomery County has been recognized as a national leader in solid waste management. While the County has achieved an overall recycling rate of around 60 percent (for residential and businesses combined), DEP is constantly looking for ways to increase that rate.

“By utilizing technology and economies of scale, we can create new efficiencies, improve revenues and launch the next generation of recycling for an industry in desperate need of an upgrade,” said DEP Director Adam Ortiz. “The key reason recycling is struggling is that we have 1990s systems, but expect 2050 results. It is our duty to take the leap into the next age of recycling.”  

In April 2018, the County initiated a planning process to develop the “Aiming for Zero Waste Plan.” The planning process is expected to result in a draft master plan in late summer. The recycling program and the disposal programs are being evaluated. The plan will identify alternatives that can increase the County’s recycling rate and will identify future opportunities related to recycling operations. These opportunities may require new space and/or new buildings.

The County currently operates a Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) in Derwood, adjacent to the Shady Grove Processing Facility and Transfer Station. The MRF is owned by the County and operated by Maryland Environmental Service (MES). The MRF processes two streams of recyclables: commingled materials (such as glass and plastic bottles and aluminum cans) and paper from single-family and multi-family residences, as well as some commercial sources.

The MRF began operation in August 1991. The original facility was designed to process 80 tons of commingled materials per day. However, it is currently receiving 130-170 tons per day—at times, double the capacity of the original design. The result is that materials than cannot be processed at the MRF are shipped to out of County processing facilities.

The sorted materials are sold to various end markets to be remanufactured into new materials.

The County’s Paper Processing Facility (PPF) began commercial operation in May 2017. Designed to process up to 25 tons of mixed paper and cardboard per hour, it is currently receiving in excess of its designed capacity. The PPF operations include separating and baling mixed paper and cardboard to sell into the market. The mixed paper is baled from load bunkers and shipped to paper mills to be made into new products.

The County also is interested in exploring opportunities to address food waste processing and construction and demolition processing operations. These additional opportunities will be dependent on sites availability, capacity and budget.

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Release ID: 19-258
Media Contact: Neil H. Greenberger 240-777-6532