For Anne and Craig Haupt, recycling the family's apple juice and soda bottles once meant hauling five or six boxes of empties from the basement of their Hamilton home to a Dundalk packaging plant. Tomorrow, they will simply carry a bin full of glass and a gold-colored tub filled with tin cans, milk jugs and shampoo bottles to the curb in front of their house.
Goodbye, trash. Hello, curbside recycling.
"It relieves me of one more thing that I have to do," said Mrs. Haupt, a busy mother of two young sons and a nurse who works three days a week at Maryland General Hospital.
Beginning this week and next, the Haupts and residents of about 20,000 other homes in North and Northeast Baltimore will be able to have a wide variety of recyclable goods picked up and hauled to processing facilities for free by two private contractors hired by the city.
The pickups in the neighborhoods chosen for the pilot project will occuron specific days -- in conjunction with one of the two days on which their trash is picked up -- and continue every other week.
Similar pilot programs are already under way in Anne Arundel, Howard and Baltimore counties.
When the white and green striped recycling truck pulls up in front of the Haupts' brick bungalow on Rosalie Avenue at 8 a.m. tomorrow, it will find not only the family's juice bottles and Coca-Cola cans but paper bags full of flattened boxes of Honey Nut Cheerios and Nutra Grain, cardboard beverage holders from McDonalds, junk mail and L. L. Bean catalogs.
Flattened paper products -- including old phone books, compact disc jackets, even toilet paper rolls -- also can be bundled and tied with a string.
Glass jars, tin and aluminum cans and plastic milk jugs must be rinsed clean with lids or plastic rings removed. Cans and plastic bottles should be crushed. Other narrow-necked, plastic containers -- for detergent or soap -- can be recycled if they have a numbered triangle on the bottom.
Non-paper goods can be placed in color-coded, 18-gallon bins that are being sold for $5 apiece by the city (gold for Northeast Baltimore, sky blue for North Baltimore) or a regular trash can that carries a curbside recycling bumper sticker.
Here's what can't be recycled: carbon paper, waxed paper, paper milk or juice cartons and foil-lined paper, paint cans, window glass, light bulbs, mirrors, ceramics, pesticide or herbicide and other aerosol cans, oil or antifreeze containers.
"It's so easy to do once you get started," said Lorraine Kelly, a recycling activist in Overlea who knocked on neighbors' doors recently to spur participation in the curbside effort. "All you have to do is separate the paper from all the other
things. It's something you can do on a personal level to make a difference."
To enthusiasts like Mrs. Kelly, whose successfully run community drop-off programs brought recyclers out in droves, tomorrow is a day they thought would never come. And now that it's here, they say the success of the program depends on volume.
The operational cost of the program is directly related to how much trash the city doesn't send to a landfill. Money that would have been spent to burn trash at a landfill will be used to have the items picked up and recycled.
"It's really critical that people participate in this. These two zones are looked at as the model for the city," said Dan Jerrems, chairman of the Baltimore Recycling Coalition, an umbrella group involved in the planning of the curbside program.
Mr. Jerrems and other recycling activists have faulted Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke and his office for not being more aggressive in promoting the program.
The city's recycling coordinator, Stephen E. Chidsey, has done yeoman's work, Mr. Jerrems said, "but it hasn't been a priority of the mayor and the administration. The attention they have given it is pretty superficial. The City Council has been much more responsive."
Mr. Chidsey and his staff of eight from the Public Works Department have had about two months to prepare for tomorrow's debut.
Since mid-September, when the city awarded contracts worth $204,237 to Browning Ferris Industries Inc. and White Brothers Trucking, the recycling staff has briefed 33 community organizations and distributed or mailed 20,000 fliers on the curbside program.
"For it to work, the contractors have to make enough money for what they are collecting," said Barbara B. Frierson, the coalition's vice chair, who helped coordinate the wildly successful, volunteer recycling center at the parking lot of the Polytechnic Institute and Western High School.
The Poly center is now closed. If the popularity it achieved is any indication of the community's commitment to recycling, Ms. Frierson said, the curbside program should take off.
"If people were willing to put hundreds of pounds of glass, paper and aluminum in their car and bring it out to the center, then they can now put it in a plastic bin and put it out in front of their house," Ms. Frierson said.