Heather Dresbach tossed an empty soda bottle into the trash Sunday.
"I said, 'No,' " her mother, Nancy, recalled yesterday. For the Dresbach family on Rosalie Avenue in northeast Baltimore, and about 20,000 other families in the city, used soda bottles, milk jugs and other recyclables no longer are to be considered castaways bound for the dump.
Yesterday marked the start of Baltimore's large-scale curbside recycling effort, at 1,700 homes in certain northeast and north-central neighborhoods.
City-sponsored collection of recyclables will begin at about 10 percent of Baltimore's households within the next two weeks; the rest of the city's households are to be brought into the program within the next several years.
Curbside collection is to be offered at another 48,000 households beginning next March. Private haulers are to bid for collection contracts in the next zones, in northwest, north-central and northeast Baltimore.
"I think they should make it a law," said Nancy Dresbach, who proudly participated in the volunteer effort, filling a bright yellow recycling bin with used aluminum cans, plastic milk jugs and other containers. Newspapers and other paper, including junk mail, also are being collected and processed for re-use. The effort is part of the city's attempt to meet a state recycling mandate and save landfill space.
"It's simple. It's easy," she said.
While the Dresbach family represents some of the eager participants in the effort, other families have yet to hear much about it.
Kurt Berger, of the 3100 block of Rosalie Ave., hurrying off work early yesterday, seemed surprised when asked if he were participating in the effort. He had not heard about it.
"Sounds like a great idea," Berger said. He will have to wait until the next pickup in his neighborhood. Collection of recyclables is planned for every two weeks.
City recycling officials, operating on a limited budget, have been struggling to get the word out about the program. They are delivering thousands of fliers, running radio spots and promoting it at meetings with community groups.
The city is selling a limited number of recycling bins for $5 each. The next sale is scheduled for Saturday at Memorial Stadium, 9 a.m. to noon.
Residents also can set recyclables at curbside in trash cans or other containers of their choosing, as long as they are affixed with stickers provided by the city. The stickers are being mailed to residents in the first two recycling zones.
Stephen E. Chidsey, city recycling coordinator, said officials would like at least 50 percent of the households participate.
"We're hoping for peer pressure," Chidsey said yesterday.
Councilman Joseph T. "Jody" Landers 3rd said he, too, has heard criticism about a lack of promotion of the recycling program. Now that collection has begun, more people will be aware of it, he said.
"You're talking about breaking a lot of old habits about how we dispose of our waste," Landers, D-3rd, said.
Daniel L. Jerrems, chairman of the Baltimore Recycling Coalition, said there is another reason people should recycle: It has the potential to save city taxpayers millions of dollars.
Jerrems said coalition members favored once-a-week collection of regular trash, rather than the current twice-a-week collections, as a way to save as much as $6 million a year. In 1982, such a proposal kicked off a tense political fight and a court battle. The proposal was dropped within about a week.
"People went nuts. We don't want to have that all over again," Jerrems said. He said coalition members are hoping that once-a-week trash collection can be pursued once people see how recycling can reduce their volume of trash.
Meanwhile, the city is dealing with another problem: G&L Trucking, a private company that has a city contract to process and sell for re-use all used containers from the curbside program, has not yet obtained zoning approval to operate in the old city dog pound on Calverton Road in southwest Baltimore.
"It's forced us into Plan B," Chidsey said. That means Browning-Ferris Industries and White Bros. Trucking, the two companies hired by the city to pick up recyclables in the first two FTC zones, will have to sell the material themselves until G&L can begin operating.
"It doesn't hold up the plan at all. We were well prepared for this," Chidsey said.