Less Waste Better Baltimore: Rethinking Our Waste Management Future

Status of the LWBB Master Planning Effort

Following the publication of Task 5 and Task 7 reports, which together provide the basis for decision-making on future waste diversion, recycling, and disposal options, the LWBB Team is actively engaged in drafting the Master Plan (Task 8). The Master Plan draws on Task 5 and 7 reports to develop a set of recommendations based on actionable strategies and programmatic and infrastructure needs for the City to achieve the LWBB Plan’s goals of waste diversion and recycling. Among other factors, recommendations are made based on:

  • Estimated costs,
  • Projected performance and acceptability to residents and businesses,
  • Site availability,
  • Expected timeframes for implementation,
  • Potential funding sources, including grants and options for private investment such as public-private partnerships, and
  • The potential roles of various actors within the private and public sectors, including City departments and agencies, elected officials, residents, nonprofits, and universities.

Once available, the draft Master Plan will be presented for public review at a “town hall” style meeting. Public review feedback will be evaluated and incorporated into the Final Master Plan (Task 9), which will be finalized and presented to the Mayor, City Council, and the public (Task 10).

Less Waste Better Baltimore Process Graphic

( Click on the image or click on this link to view the Image Transcript )

Potential Improvements to the Current Diversion/Recycling System (Task 5) Report Completed

The Task 5 report of the Less Waste, Better Baltimore project is now complete. The report documents potential options for the City to consider which, if implemented, would improve current waste diversion and recycling rates within the residential and commercial sectors. These include the following:

  • Options for reducing and diverting food scraps and other organic waste, traditional recyclables, C&D debris, and non-traditional recyclables;
  • Options for developing integrated recycling facilities that target multiple material classes in combination;
  • Broader strategies and policies for encouraging waste reduction and diversion in Baltimore; and
  • Other service and administrative changes, including improvements in the City’s 311 service, street sweeping, waste collection service, etc.

A summary of the individual contribution that each set of options is expected to make to the overall diversion rate, and as a result, the quantity of “what’s left” for disposal, is also included in the report.

Managing What’s Left (Task 7) Report Completed

The Task 7 report of the Less Waste, Better Baltimore project is now complete. The report documents potential options for the city to consider for the management of residual waste (or, “what’s left”) following the implementation of the waste diversion efforts identified in the Task 5 report. Options identified for consideration include the following:

  • Maximizing the use of DPW’s Quarantine Road Landfill;
  • Continued use of Wheelabrator Baltimore, the waste-to-energy incinerator previously known as BRESCO;
  • Constructing new/expanded waste transfer stations as long-haul transfer options for disposal out of the City; and
  • Other waste processing technologies such as mixed waste processing, mechanical-biological treatment, or gasification.

The report also identifies specific facilities and programs that can assist with budgetary planning for future waste disposal needs and recommends a decentralized approach to provide contingencies for unexpected interruption of one of the City’s main recycling or transfer/disposal locations.

Less Waste, Better Baltimore Plan Presentations

In November, the project team was asked to give a status overview of the Less Waste, Better Baltimore (LWBB) plan to both the Baltimore Commission on Sustainability and the Baltimore City Council. These meetings were held on November 20 and 21, 2019, respectively.

The Baltimore Commission on Sustainability oversees the implementation of the Baltimore Sustainability Plan, monitoring and reporting progress annually. The Commission is made up of volunteer members representing environmental groups, community organizations, labor unions, public health and environmental justice interests, and private industry. The focus of the November Commission meeting was waste reduction and included presentations from several initiatives taking place in the City, including the LWBB master planning project.

The Baltimore City Council is the City's legislative body, with City Council members elected from fourteen districts. The Council’s November 21 meeting was a legislative oversight hearing focused on updates on waste reduction initiatives in the City.

At both meetings, the LWBB project team presented an overview of the scope and progress made on the LWBB Plan; a review of draft findings on potential recycling and diversion options, including a discussion of the basis and methodology for analyzing different options; and a summary of findings to date. The LWBB project team also answered questions from commission/council members and the general public. More details can be found in the summary presentation that was given at both meetings.

Draft Review of Waste Diversion and Recycling Options

In October, the project team submitted a draft report to the City that presents potential options for the City to consider for improving waste diversion and recycling rates within the residential and commercial sectors. This draft report is the eighth in a series of reports developed in support of the Less Waste, Better Baltimore (LWBB) plan. Input received from the plan’s earlier stakeholder outreach engagements was used to help inform the review of options. The draft report identifies specific programs for consideration by the City based on high-level information regarding several factors, including:

  • The anticipated level of waste diversion or recycling that could reasonably be expected
  • Costs and timelines for implementation
  • Job creation potential
  • Environmental benefits achieved

The draft report is currently under review by DPW and will be finalized for publication on this website in the near future.

Benchmarking Study Completed

The Benchmarking Study under the Less Waste, Better Baltimore project is now complete. This study compares the performance of Baltimore City’s current solid waste management systems and services with those in five other U.S. jurisdictions that have either enacted or are in the process of enacting, meaningful improvements to their waste disposal and recycling rates. Baltimore’s master planning effort can learn from the experiences in these other jurisdictions, which are:

  • Austin, TX
  • Boston, MA
  • Charleston, SC
  • Charlotte, NC
  • Portland, OR

Areas of comparison included waste collection services, waste management infrastructure and facilities, waste management financials, quantities of waste managed, recycling rates, and waste-related initiatives and regulations. In addition to identifying lessons learned in each of these areas, the study includes a selection of physical infrastructure, policy and regulatory, programmatic, and economic best practices that Baltimore may consider as part of making improvements to the City’s current waste diversion and recycling rates.

Results of Summer Waste Sort Now Available

To help inform the development of the Less Waste, Better Baltimore plan, the project team needs reliable and up-to-date data on waste and recycling characteristics and quantities generated in Baltimore City. For this, a two-season (winter and summer) waste and recycling sort was conducted. The project team conducted the second (Summer 2019) waste and recycling sort over a three-week period in June. This waste and recycling sort evaluated components of the City’s existing solid waste management system, focusing on curbside waste collection, commercial waste collection, and curbside single-stream recycling. Depending on the waste stream, trash and recyclables were separated into as many as 13 different material classifications. The largest components of curbside trash were food waste, yard waste, and mixed plastics, while commercial trash was highest in food waste and cardboard. Curbside recycling loads were dominated by cardboard. Materials brought to the City’s drop-off centers by residents and licensed small-haulers were also examined. For additional detail, view the complete results from the summer waste and recycling sort.

Comprehensive Existing System Description Report Completed

A critical task of the Less Waste, Better Baltimore master planning effort focuses on developing an understanding of the existing waste and recycling streams in the City, as well as the current systems for processing and managing them. For this task, the project team reviewed the solid waste and recycling programs, services, and facilities operated by the Department of Public Works and other municipal and private actors. They also reviewed relevant regulations, population and housing projections, governance, finance, and contracts affecting solid waste management and recycling in the City, as well as private infrastructure and facilities in the local region.

The project team has compiled all this information into one comprehensive report—Comprehensive Description of Existing Solid Waste Management System—that will help inform the master planning effort.

Community Meetings Held

Thanks to all who attended the final two community meetings. The study team provided an update on the current research into improving solid waste diversion and attendees had the opportunity to pose questions or make suggestions regarding the master planning effort.

If you’re interested in hearing more about what was said at the meetings:

Preview of Upcoming Community Meetings

Interested in hearing more about the progress we’re making on the Less Waste, Better Baltimore project? The next two community meetings are your opportunity to learn more and get your questions answered.

Mark your calendars for Tuesday, June 4 from 6:30 pm–8:00 pm at Mergenthaler High School and Saturday, June 15 from 10:30 am–12:00 pm at the Enoch Pratt Library – Southeast Anchor. We look forward to seeing residents, business owners, students, and other stakeholders from across the City to ensure you’re in the know about this important project.

What can I expect at the meeting?

Each meeting will last for 1.5 hours. The project team will provide an overview of the project’s progress and attendees will be given the opportunity to ask questions.

Please join us!

Please download the printable meeting flyer and share it with others you think might be interested in attending.

Survey Results Now Available

More than 2,000 people participated in the Less Waste, Better Baltimore survey! Thanks to everyone who took the time to make their voices heard.

We’ve compiled the results into a graphical summary that captures everything from participants’ current waste management and diversion practices to their ratings of potential future waste and recycling collection and drop-off services. We were also excited to see the wide range of ideas that participants have for improving City services and that 96% of people surveyed agree or strongly agree that they support policies that lead to improved waste reduction, recycling, and reuse.

We’re currently factoring these results into our analysis and will have more to report back at the upcoming community meetings in June.

Information Gathering Meetings Held

We had a great turnout at both of our initial community meetings! Those who participated provided excellent input about the challenges to reducing Baltimore’s solid waste as well as new ideas for the solid waste management and diversion options we should consider in the study.

We’re taking all of the inputs we heard into consideration as part of our analysis step in the project. If you’re interested in hearing more about what was said at the meetings:

Preview of Upcoming Community Meetings

Do you have ideas for solid waste management and diversion options that you think the City should consider? The upcoming community meetings are your opportunity to let us know as we work to develop the Less Waste, Better Baltimore plan.

Scheduled for Thursday, February 28 at Edmondson-Westside High School from 6:30pm–8:30pm and Monday, March 11 at the Shake and Bake Family Fun Center from 9:30am–12:00pm, the community meetings are a critical component of the information gathering part of the project. Participation from residents, businesses, students, and other stakeholders across the City is critical to ensuring that we identify a range of proven, sustainable waste management and diversion approaches that truly works for the people who live and work in Baltimore.

What can I expect at the meeting?

We are not holding these meetings just to say we have engaged the public in the process—your input is a valuable and integral data set in the overall study effort and will be factored into our analysis as we develop our recommendations.

Each meeting will last between 2–2.5 hours and is focused on giving attendees the opportunity to voice their ideas. The project team will provide a brief overview of the project’s objectives and progress to date, while the majority of the meeting will consist of a facilitated discussion of the solid waste management and diversion options you think we should consider in the study.

Please join us!

Your input is critical to the successful development of a plan that works for all Baltimoreans. Please join us on Thursday, February 28, or Monday, March 11, and make your voice heard!

Please download the printable meeting flyer and share it with others you think might be interested in attending. If you can’t attend the meetings but have input to share, please take a minute to fill out our survey, which will close at 5:00 pm on Tuesday, March 12.