Prodded by the soaring costs of trash disposal, the city and Baltimore County are moving toward a refuse collection system that would encourage homeowners and businesses to use materials that can be recycled.
The city and county councils, sitting jointly last night, received the final report of the task force studying the problem. The task force is chaired by county Councilman Ronald B. Hickernell, D-1st, and city Councilman Joseph T. "Jody" Landers 3rd, D-3rd.
Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, who attended the joint session along with County Executive Dennis Rasmussen, said the city would review the report and compare it with a recycling plan prepared by the North East Maryland Waste Disposal Authority.
The mayor and Rasmussen also vowed that the report would not end up on a shelf gathering dust.
"The driving force behind solving our solid waste problems is a fiscal force," Hickernell said today. "Recycling is basically free so it would not impact on the property tax rate like solid waste disposal does. For that reason alone, the report will not be shelved."
City Council President Mary Pat Clarke referred the report to the council's Policy and Planning Committee for a future hearing.
"The main thrust of the report is to take solid waste disposal off the property tax rate and move it to a user fee system," Clarke said today. "How we do that is something we will work through with the Schmoke administration and the public."
The recommendations, if adopted, would lessen the use of disposable materials by residents and businesses and could allow the subdivisions to reduce their property tax rates by as much 25 cents.
The county now spends around $30 million from its operating budget on trash disposal and the city spends more than $60 million.
Here are several of the task force's major recommendations:
* Creation of a new recycling goal of 50 percent of all trash by the year 2000, surpassing the 20 percent goal now in place for 1994 in Maryland.
* Combining the city and county curbside-recycling efforts. To make collections easier, residents would be given labels to identify refuse that could be recycled.
* Creating an independent waste-disposal authority that would finance its operations by charging residential customers by the volume of non-recyclable trash discarded.
* Encouraging the county and city governments to buy materials that can be recycled.
* Offering tax incentives for companies buying recycling equipment, and promoting the use of energy-saving devices such as low-flush toilets and long-life light bulbs.
Hickernell said the County Council and its staff will be working with the county executive's staff "to try [to] find a commonality of support for the recommendations."
The city and county legislators were also looking for alternatives to the property tax.