Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, wearing crisp orange Sanitation Services overalls, watched yesterday as a contractor working for the city made his way along Rosalie Avenue, loading like treasure stuff the city only a week ago used to burn or bury.
Moving from house to house, the contractor collected aluminum cans, bundles of newspaper and plastic milk cartons set out at the curbside, and dumped them into a hopper attached to the side of a garbage truck.
Then, with a diesel groan, the truck's mechanical arms sent the contents of the hopper spilling into the truck's hold -- and sent the city of Baltimore into the age of curbside recycling.
Yesterday marked the first day of a pilot program in which contractors working for the city will collect and recycle glass, paper and metal food and beverage cans that are placed in specially marked containers set out at the curbside.
Curbside recycling, for years the dream of environmentally conscious residents, was embraced by city officials this year as a way of extending the life of landfill sites that are quickly filling with the mountains of trash thrown away each day.
But the pilot program begun yesterday in two areas in North Baltimore and Northeast Baltimore apparently has not been without problems.
Although residents along Rosalie Avenue were notified through leaflets that curbside recycling was to begin yesterday, many of them did not bother to separate recyclable items from their regular trash. And some people did not use specially designated recycling bins or stickers on their garbage cans so that the recyclable material could be distinguished from regular trash.
Also, city officials said a major glitch in the recycling program could crop up because a firm that has been contracted to separate the recycled material -- G&L Recycling -- so far has not obtained the necessary permits to begin operations.
Stephen E. Chidsey, the city's recycling coordinator, said that although the two haulers working in the pilot area will separate their own collections, no new areas will be designated for curbside recycling until G&L resolves its problems or another contractor can be hired to take its place.
Mr. Chidsey said the mayor last month approved four new areas for curbside recycling.
City officials had hoped to get curbside recycling going in the new areas by Feb. 1. But Mr. Chidsey said that date likely will be pushed back because of the unclear status of G&L.
One of the new areas extends east of York Road and south from the city line to Woodbourne Avenue. Another area would extend north from North Avenue through Charles Village and Remington and below Druid Hill Park as far west as Fulton Avenue. A third area would include much of Northwest Baltimore between Reisterstown Road and the Jones Falls Expressway north of Cold Spring Lane. And a fourth area would extend along Eastern Avenue toward Highlandtown.
Glenn Leach, owner of G&L, yesterday said he will not purchase equipment or make other necessary preparations to his business at 222 Calverton Road in Rosemont until he is sure he can get the permits he needs to begin operations. He was to meet last night with Rosemont community leaders in an effort to head off possible neighborhood opposition to a use permit for his business. City officials last week gave Mr. Leach 30 days to begin operations or face the loss of his city contract, Mr. Leach yesterday said.