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Recycling and Solid Waste Division
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Recycling Programs (2)
Electronic Recycling

The Department of Public Works and Transportation, Recycling Program, is pleased to announce the initiation of Electronic Equipment Recycling at the six (6) Convenience Centers. The program began in November 2005 and is intended to provide residents of St. Mary’s County the ability to dispose of the following items, free of charge, which will be sorted accordingly:

  • Computer Monitors

  • Computers (a.k.a. Central Processing Unit or CPU)

  • Support Devices: Printers, Keyboards, Mouse and/or Wire(s)

  • Televisions, Copiers, VCR’s, DVD Players, Two Way Radios, or other miscellaneous small electronics. Console televisions must be disposed of at the St. Andrews Landfill for a fee.

  • Fluorescent lamps/Bulbs & Ballasts

In addition, citizens can continue to drop-off and recycle Cell Phones and Rechargeable Batteries. Automotive batteries must continue to be dropped off at the St. Andrews Landfill. Please look for the gray storage container labeled “Electronic Recycling”. Additional information about Creative Recycling Services, Inc. can be found at http://www.crserecycling.com

The current program captures approximately 377 tons (754,000 pounds) of electronics at the six convenience centers. Disposal of electronics can cost between $0.10 ($200 / ton) and $0.15 per pound ($300 / ton), but through this collection, dismantling and reuse program, ultimate disposal costs are reduced by over $50 per ton.


Empty Pesticide Container Recycling

It is estimated between 25 to 35 million empty pesticide containers are sold annually in the United States. When empty, these containers take up valuable landfill space and if improperly disposed of, can present a threat to water quality. To address this issue, the Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) has been conducting annual collection programs since 1993. St. Mary’s County entered into a Cooperative Agreement with the State on June 11, 1996 to offer the Program to the County’s residents. There are three (3) collection dates established each year between the months of June and September.

Before the empty containers can be accepted for recycling they must be visually inspected by MDA inspectors to ensure that they are clean and free of pesticide residue. Containers that pass inspection are temporarily stored prior to being chipped and transported to market. For more information on the program contact the County’s Solid Waste Manager at (301) 863-8400 or the MDA Pesticide Regulation Section at (410) 841-5710.


Fluorescent Bulb and Ballast Recycling Program

The "Bulb & Ballast Recycling" Program, began in November 2005 and is designed to collect used fluorescent lamps, high intensity discharge (HID) bulbs, neon lamp tubing of all shapes and sizes, ballasts, boxes for lamps and drums for ballasts, then picked up bi-weekly by a certified recycler (Capitol Recycling). There is no additional cost for this service at the convenience centers since the program is part of our Electronics Recycling initiative.

The primary purpose of the program is to reduce the amount of mercury entering the environment; the various bulbs and lamps collected each contain measurable amounts of this element. The secondary purpose is to properly dispose of the PCB's contained in some older ballasts, and to recycle the copper and other materials contained in all ballasts.

This program has been implemented at all six (6) of the County’s Convenience Centers, at the Building Services Division for maintenance of all County buildings and facilities, and is also being implemented by the Board of Education. Complete compliance with the law does not allow handlers to throw fluorescent lamps or ballast into a landfill, but required them to assure they are either being recycled or disposed of in a permitted hazardous waste landfill.  The Building Services and Solid Waste Divisions have purchased "bulb eaters" for use in maintaining County facilities and in the residential collection program at the Convenience Centers. This 2014 initiative will: Reduce handling - Saves roughly 20 hours of labor per 1000 lamps by crushing rather than boxing the lamps; Provide a Safer work environment - EPA studies show an estimated 2-3% accidental breakage rate while boxing lamps prior to pickup; Satisfies EPA and OSHA compliance - Crushes spent flourescent lamps of any length into 100% recyclable material and captures over 99.9% of mercury vapor emissions released which is not only safer, but helps reduce liability; Cut costs - By pre-crushing the lamps, facilities are able to save money on storage, transportation and service costs - Savings can be anywhere from a dime to $1 per lamp. 

By recycling the fluorescent lamps and ballasts we are assuring no future liability and that we are in complete compliance with the State of Maryland Laws and Regulations.

What does the law say?

RCRA regulations prohibit the disposal of waste lamps and light bulbs in sanitary landfills if they contain levels of heavy metals (i.e., mercury) that exceed hazardous waste limits. The EPA has prepared a fact sheet, describing what to do if a compact Fluorescent Light (CFL) Blub or Fluorescent Tube Light Bulb breaks in your home.

Generators of spent hazardous bulbs can choose to manage their bulbs as either hazardous waste or universal waste. The Universal Waste Standards (40 CFR Part 273) are management standards that are less stringent than hazardous waste requirements for large quantity generators - those producing more than 2,200 pounds (1,000 kilograms) in any calendar month. Small quantity generators - those producing between 200 pounds and 2,200 pounds (100-1,000 kilograms) of hazardous waste per month may also find it advantageous to manage their waste as universal waste. Conditionally Exempt Small Quantity Generators - those producing less than 220 pounds (100 kilograms) of hazardous waste per month may prefer to manage it as hazardous waste due to the minimal requirements associated with the smaller waste volumes. For specific RCRA generator requirements, refer to 40 CFR 261, 262 and 273.


Home Composting

Why Compost at Home?

·         Composting recycles your wastes into a valuable soil amendment that can be used to improve your soil and plantings.

·         Disposal of leaves, grass, clipping and other yard waste is a problem for homeowners.

·         Yard and food waste make up 30% of the solid waste stream in the U.S.

·         Composting is easy, requiring minimal amounts of space and effort.

Ten Steps to Home Composting

·         STEP 1: Selecting a location – You don’t need much space for this project, an area as small as 6’ by 6’ is plenty. If you plan to compost in the winter, choose a sunny spot, otherwise a location with some shade will help to keep the compost moist during the summer months.

·         STEP 2: Bin design – You can purchase a ready made bin or build one yourself out of basic material(s). The simplest enclosure made of 3’ wide, 1” wire mesh, formed into a 3’ diameter circle, securing the ends to one another using wooden stakes for support. Another easy enclosure is by reusing four old shipping pallets, secured side to side, making a square box.

·         STEP 3: Filling the bin – All organic matter, things that were once alive or come from living things is compostable. This includes yard waste such as leaves and grass clippings, kitchen wastes such as fruit and vegetable leavings, coffee grounds, tea leaves, egg shells, etc. DO NOT compost animal products such as meat, bones, fat, grease or pet feces.

·         STEP 4: Efficient composting – Any combination of organic materials will eventually degrade. For a higher quality product, use a mixture of compatible material. Rule-of-thumb, mix equal parts of BROWN (dry leaves, straw, sawdust, etc.) with GREEN (grass clippings, garden weeks, kitchen scraps) ingredients and shred or cut larger materials for quick composting. Keep kitchen scraps on the inside of the pile to decompose faster.

·         STEP 5: Let’s get started – When combining your BROWN and GREEN ingredients, you should add a shovel or two of soil, this will add microbes into the mix to facilitate the decomposing process. Also, add a small amount of water, you want the compost to be slightly moist, the microbes work better in this environment.

·         STEP 6: Heat – After a week, check to see if the pile is heating up. This is part of the composting process. The center may get as hot as 150 degrees F. If the center isn’t warmer than the outside of the pile, you may need to add more GREEN materials to get the process started.

·         STEP 7: Turn the pile – Composting works best under oxygen-rich conditions. The pile should be turned at least once a week with a shovel or pitchfork. This will ensure that all the ingredients are thoroughly mixed and will become completely broken down.

·         STEP 8: Troubleshooting – Odors stem from two possible problems: too much GREEN, or not enough oxygen. In either case, immediately turn the pile to introduce more oxygen. If the problem is too much GREEN, add more BROWN material(s). An overly wet pile may also cause bad odors, if so, use less water.

·         STEP 9: Compost – After three to ten weeks and many turnings, your compost should be dark, moist, crumbly and ready to use.

·         STEP 10: Using your compost – Technically, compost is not fertilizer, it is an excellent soil amendment that improves the structure and quality of your soil. Use your compost in garden beds to increase soil porosity and aeration, around shrubs to keep weeds at a minimum and help retain moisture.


Household Hazardous Waste Days

On May 13, 1997 the Board of County Commissioners approved the first collection event which was co-hosted by the Department of Public Works and the NAS Patuxent River Hazardous Material Control and Management Program Office on June 14, 1997. Since that time, county residents have been encouraged to clean out their barns and basements, sheds and garages, under their kitchen sinks and in their medicine cabinets and take advantage of the opportunity to properly discard of potentially toxic/dangerous materials. Items that are accepted include: disinfectants; paint (all kinds); stains and polish; solvents and thinners; caustic cleaners (for toilets, tile, masonry, ovens, etc), pool chemicals, lawn care chemicals, pet care chemicals; all pesticides, fungicides and herbicides used in and around the home; batteries (all kinds); thermometers, thermostats, fluorescent light bulbs (all contain mercury); aerosol cans of anything; boat gas, kerosene and other fuels (even old and mixed with water).

The Department conducts several announced events during the late summer and early fall each year at the St. Andrews Landfill. This initiative has grown in participation since it was initiated in 1997 and currently collects between 40 - 50 tons of material each year.  The average annual program costs each year are approximately $60,000 for the collection, equipment, transportation and disposal of material.

More information is available by calling the County’s Solid Waste Manager at (301) 863-8400. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation has assembled a valuable and free informational kit that is available from the "Save the Bay from Toxins" Program at 1-800-SAVEBAY.

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