Resource Recovery Facility in Dickerson Credit: Courtesy of Lauren Greenberger

Montgomery County’s new environmental protection director says the county doesn’t have enough capacity to handle the daily amount of recycled waste and must spend almost $1 million a year to ship materials to a processing center in York, Pennsylvania.

Environmental Director Adam Ortiz said during a hearing of the County Council’s Transportation and Environment Committee Thursday that the Shady Grove Transfer Station and Processing Center, where the county’s recycling center is located, doesn’t have enough capacity to meet the county’s needs.

“Part of it is infrastructure. The other is that there is more material that people are dealing with,” he said.

Division of Solid Waste Services Chief Willie Wainer said the Shady Grove facility can process 8 tons of waste per hour, and between 60 and 65 tons per day. But the county is receiving twice that amount of waste, and must contract with the garbage collection service Penn Waste to take the materials. Deputy environmental director Patty Bubar said the county sends between 14,000 and 16,000 tons of recycled waste per year to the Pennsylvania facility, at a cost of $65 per ton.

Wainer also said the county is receiving more than 90,000 tons of compost waste per year, 60,000 of which go to the county’s composting facility in Dickerson, which has a capacity of 77,000 tons per year. The rest of the compost, Wainer said, becomes mulch.

Adjacent to the composting facility is the county’s waste-to-energy incinerator, which County Executive Marc Elrich has vowed to shut down. Committee member Hans Riemer asked Wainer how it could realistically be done.


“What [recycling] rate do we have to get to … so that we could actually shut it down?”

Closing the incinerator, Wainer said, would require that the county achieve a recycling rate of close to 84 percent.

Currently, the county’s recycling rate is just over 60 percent, but that number includes recycled ash from the incinerator, said legislative analyst Keith Levchenko.


The county has set a goal of achieving a 70 percent recycling rate by 2020, but is likely to miss that target. Ortiz also said his department plans to hire a recycling coordinator soon.

The county would need to recycle significantly more, he said, to make up the difference in ash not produced due to the incinerator being closed.

“If you take the incinerator out, you don’t have the ash,” he said.


Dan Schere can be reached at