Friday, February 22, 2013

Why wrapping glass is important for safe trash collection

If you receive Montgomery County-provided trash service, you may request up to five bulk trash pickups per year at no additional charge.

Requesting a bulk pick up is easy: place your request online or by calling the County's Customer Service Center at 311 (240-777-0311, TTY: 301-251-4850).

If your list of materials for pickup includes glass, we'll ask you to wrap it in paper.  Glass may shatter as crews try to load it into the trash truck hopper.

This resident set out a bare sheet glass on a recent morning:

Glass sheet at the curb for bulk trash pickup.

The trash crew retrieved the glass, with this result:

Glass shards at the curb.

"Fortunately, no crew members were injured," reported Gabriel George, the Collections Program Specialist whose assigned area includes this neighborhood.  "Glass pieces can cause serious injuries, but this time, it only left a mess for the crew to clean up."

Learn more about bulk trash pickups in Montgomery County, Maryland.

-- Photos by Gabriel George

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Getting a lift for a heavy load of paper recycling - Notes from the Field

Every day, crews from Montgomery County's recycling collection contractors are out in neighborhoods, emptying blue bins and paper carts.

The paper, books, and cardboard in a full paper recycling cart can create heavy loads for our collectors.

Last week, we caught up with Edison Cargeo and his crew member Jose Valdes. Edison is a driver for Unity Disposal, LLC, one of the three recycling collection contractors for Montgomery County Government. Other collection contractors include Ecology Services, Inc., and Potomac Disposal, Inc.

They were collecting cans, bottles, jars, containers, and paper with lightning speed.

Edison paused for a moment to demonstrate how his split body rear loader truck safely lifts the heavy paper carts. Edison told me that he and Jose serve about 300 to 400 houses per day depending on the route – so, it’s important that the trucks can give them a lift with all those carts! Before trucks were equipped with mechanical lifts, many injuries occurred when workers shouldered heavy recycling containers and manually tipped their contents into truck hoppers.

What can you do to help keep our collection crews like Edison and Jose safe?  Edison shared some ideas...

When the weather is bad, he urges us to park in our driveways, and not on the streets. That allows him to maneuver his truck more easily, and to avoid collisions with parked cars.

Read more details about the do's and don'ts of paper recycling in Montgomery County.

-- Submitted by Jessica Fusillo, Collections Communications

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Presidents Day at the Resource Recovery Facility

Our residents' tour of the Resource Recovery Facility "sold out" almost as soon as it was announced.  On yesterday's Presidents Day holiday, participants gathered for their eagerly-awaited discussion of... trash!

After an overview of the Facility's operations, we put on hard hats and safety glasses, and inserted ear plugs.

Tour participants select hard hats and safety glasses.

The observation window provides a front-row view of trucks delivering incoming material to the trash pit, and the grapple, which holds 5 tons of trash at a time!

In the Control Room, operators use an array of gauges and screens to help monitor the Facility's operations, including how much electricity is being generated as our waste is burned at very high temperatures. A small amount of that electricity is used by the RRF itself.  The rest is put out onto the regional power grid, and is enough to power up to 40,000 homes and businesses!

The enormous scale of the feed chutes becomes very real when you walk beneath them!

If you missed this event, tour the RRF online or schedule an in-person visit.  We look forward to seeing you!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Keeping our recycling 'streams' clean! - Notes from the field

Kelly BoyleMeet the Collections Staff

Kelly Boyle

Position Title:
Inspector III

Department of Environmental Protection, Solid Waste Services, Collections Section

Inspector Boyle is currently investigating contamination in our dual stream collection process. She is one of the Collections Section’s most experienced and dedicated recycling sleuths. "The Collections Section works closely with contractors and residents to keep our recycling stream clean", says Boyle. "Today, I’m checking to see how well our separation system is working."

Each day, recycling trucks from all over the county end up here at the Recycling Center.

Sign at Recycling Center entrance

"Each truck gets weighed twice", explains Boyle, "first, when it arrives, and and then, a second time after it has emptied one of its two hoppers.”

(This is a split-body rear loader recycling truck. The paper goes into the right chamber; the commingled items (cans, bottles, jars, and containers) go into the left. Keep your eye on our blog for more on these specially-constructed recycling trucks!)

To keep our paper stream clean, the trucks unload, or "tip", the paper and the commingled items into separate piles at the Recycling Center.

cardboard pile at Recycling Center

Inspector Boyle is out on the "tipping floor", checking each load of commingled material for paper contamination. "Paper in the commingled makes more work for those inside the processing facility, and adds another level of sorting," she shouts over the trucks. "And, the tipping floor gives us the first clue about what is actually put into the blue bins and carts."

Inspector Boyle observes truck unloading commingled items.

Paper falls from the rear of the truck onto the tipping floor. Drivers sweep any stray paper into the pile. "Not a problem on this pile – the paper stream is really clean," smiles Boyle.

Recycling truck unloading paper at the Recycling Center.

Back on the commingled side… paper contamination has been detected!  Did you spy the phone book, too?

Phone book piles of can, bottles, and jars

Once the recyclables are tipped onto the floor, they are scooped up and mechanically moved along the conveyor belt to be sorted by the Recycling Center workers. The book, or paper "contamination",  gets sent to be sorted with the commingled items. There, it will be removed.

Front loader scoops material onto beginning of conveyer belt system.

Here's the front loader in video action...

Recyclable materials on conveyer belt

In order to keep our recycling stream clean, use the blue cart for paper and the blue bin for metal cans, glass bottles and jars, and plastic containers. Learn more about our curbside recycling collection program, and what items are accepted.

"This is a lot of material to sort", Boyle exclaims. "We need your help – separating paper makes the job easier for everyone, and it increases the amount we recycle. But it comes down to one thing… "

"… what goes in your blue bin."

What questions do you have for us?  Comments are turned on for our blog, and we look forward to reading yours.
-- Jessica Fusillo, Collections Field Staff

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Blue Bin Survey, Week 2 - Notes from the Field

Monday, February 4, 2013
Area 1, Route 5
Collections Staff: Jessica Fusillo

Our Recycling Bin Survey continues…

For those of you who missed us last week, our field staff is checking blue bins to see how well our recycling message is making it to the curb.

At 6:57 am this morning, in a small townhome community off of Tuckerman Lane, it was just the crows and me…

crows in tree

It’s week two of our survey, and my hands are so cold they hurt—I think they are turning blue. No, maybe it’s just my pen…

gloved hand with pen

Each bin and can has its own story to tell…

Ah, perfection! This is an A+ example of a set-out for a townhouse. There's a small blue cart for paper; a blue bin with glass, plastic, and metal; and a trash can.

trash can, recycling bin, and paper cart at the curb

Oops!  Here is a mixed-up bin!  It looks so neat, but alas, has so many issues. What’s wrong with this bin? (Hints: Foam packaging is trash. The box is made of wood. The paper needs to be bundled.)

blue bin with trash items (foam packaging, wooden box, wire)

Now, about that wire—perhaps a coated metal is a stretch but… let’s move on to the next address.  Paper in a plastic bag is in desperate need of a cart, a second blue bin or being bundled into that department store shopping bag that's peeking out.

recyclable paper set out in a plastic bag

Dirty containers and unbundled paper make it difficult to keep our "dual recycling stream" (cans, bottles, jars, lids and containers; and paper) clean.

dirty containers and loose paper in blue recycling bin

Hmm, this bin has too many plastic bags! Again, a second bin or a townhouse paper cart would resolve this situation.

overflowing blue bin, with excess items in plastic bags

Please avoid plastic bags for recyclables which don't fit into your blue bin. Call Montgomery County's Customer Service Center at 311 or go online to request a new blue bin or a paper recycling cart!

close-up of recyclables in plastic bag

Technically this is a good use of containers; however, as you can see, that overflowing paper in the bin causes "litter before collection". Loose paper also makes it difficult for our collection crews to dump the paper into the hopper of the truck without spilling more paper.

Solution: Use one of the boxes in the blue cart and stuff it with the paper overflow!

recycling bin overflowing with paper

What are your suggestions for helping us recycle more efficiently with our dual stream collection system?

In Montgomery County, we process and collect paper separately from bottles and cans. All of the collected material is transported to our Materials Recovery Facility, or "Recycling Center", where it is sorted and readied for market. This facility is located at the Shady Grove Processing Facility and Transfer Station on Shady Grove Road and is open for tours!

worker sorting plastic on conveyer belt

-- posted by Jessica Fusillo, Collections Field Staff

Friday, February 01, 2013

Who’s checking my bin? - Notes from the Field

January 31, 2013
Area 1, Route 5
Field Staffer: Joyce Fountain

It’s still dark and navigating some of the streets in this Bethesda neighborhood can be tricky. “Mostly, I am just trying to find a parking place”, says Collections Field Staffer, Joyce Fountain. Obviously, she is new to the area – because trying to find parking in this area is a constant. On this windy morning, Ms. Fountain has arrived to conduct a Recycle Bin Survey before she begins her daily task of monitoring the County Collections Contractors.

However, she notices right away that many of the blue carts and bins have been knocked over by the wind and some of their contents have spilled to the ground.

Tipped-over cart and bin with recyclables in the street

"That’s 'Litter before Collection' ", she sighs. She knows that the contractors responsible for collection in this area will be getting calls from residents claiming that recyclables were left on the street, and that lids and cans were stolen. "Residents don’t understand that sometimes the weather conditions can cause these issues."

Ms. Fountain taking notes about her container observations for our recycling survey

Right now, Ms. Fountain must get her blue bin survey completed before the trucks start collecting. “The survey will tell us how effective the County is getting its recycling message out. I check each bin to see if there are only acceptable recyclable materials, is the paper bundled and separate from the glass, metal, and plastic like this one...

Finally, is there is any paper, trash or other unacceptable item in the bins?”, asks Ms. Fountain. In this area, most of the bins are in good shape. The biggest issues are foam containers and plastic bags – when set out curbside, both of these materials are trash.

Foam food container in blue recycling bin 

Plastic bags in blue recycling bin

"Many of the grocery stores in the area do recycle plastic bags.” She has to run ahead of this Potomac Disposal recycling truck to get her last house.

Recycling crew emptying a paper recycling cart into its truck

As I run along with her, our last house poses a question:

Inline skates in blue recycling bin

Do inline skates really belong in the recycle bin?

Answer:  no, they are trash.  If the skates are still usable, consider selling them online.

For more information on recycling visit our website.  Have a cracked blue bin? Call 311 or go online to request a new one!

-- posted by Jessica Fusillo, Collections Field Staff