Popular recycling center in Overlea is closing

December 28, 1990|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,Baltimore County Bureau of The Sun

Some 18 months ago, it was moved from a parking lot off Belair Road because it was attracting such large crowds.

Last fall, Gov. William Donald Schaefer visited personally to praise it and the volunteers who run it.

But at noon tomorrow, the Overlea Recycling Center will shut down for good.

John Stewart, president of the Overlea Community Association, said the group decided about a month ago to close the recycling center it operates each Saturday in the Overlea High School parking lot.

"Our organization just can't do it anymore," Mr. Stewart said. "We've just kind of burned ourselves out."

The site attracted up to 400 cars each Saturday -- even after

curbside pickups of recyclable material began in the area last month.

Residents of about 20,000 homes in Baltimore and 5,350 homes in Baltimore County are being offered curbside recycling as part of a pilot project, and Overlea, a community that straddles the city-county border, is part of that experiment, Mr. Stewart said. But many people from surrounding communities continued to use the center.

With the start-up of the curbside recycling, the association that has run the Overlea collection center for the past 18 months began to search for another community group to take it over.

Mr. Stewart said there was no shortage of volunteers to staff the center each Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon. Rather, the problem was finding a group willing to take responsibility for all the organizational details, such as calling each week to line up the two dozen volunteers needed and making sure roll-off storage containers were dropped off and picked up by Baltimore County public works crews. He said his association even offered its list of center volunteers to any group that would assume responsibility.

But it found no takers.

"We were really hoping that some other organization would pick up the ball. That's what we needed, but that just didn't happen," he said.

Overlea's is one of the best-known and most successful recycling drop off points in the Baltimore County. And its closing comes as the county tries to encourage more recycling and meet a state mandate to reduce solid waste by 20 percent over the next four years. Last fall, Governor Schaefer visited the Overlea site and issued a proclamation honoring the volunteer efforts.

Mr. Stewart said the center was moved to the county high school parking lot last July because its first location, in the 6600 block of Belair Road across the line in Baltimore, was attracting about 500 cars each weekend. Merchants complained that the crowds were preventing customers from getting to their stores.

Charles M. Reighart, Baltimore County's recycling coordinator, said he hopes users of the Overlea site will shift to a center due to open Jan. 19 a few miles away at Kenwood High School, on Stemmers Run Road in Essex. Like the Overlea site, it will be open from 9 a.m. to noon every Saturday.

Mr. Reighart said drop-off centers will continue to operate weekends in Catonsville, Dundalk, Owings Mills, Pikesville and Towson.

Another drop-off point will open Jan. 6 in the Graul's supermarket lot on Mount Carmel Road, east of Interstate 83, in Hereford. That site will be open Sundays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

All centers accept paper products, glass containers, aluminum and tin cans and plastic bottles, he said.

Baltimore County also accepts materials Monday through Saturday from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at its recycling centers in Cockeysville, Halethorpe and White Marsh, he said.

"I don't think it's a total loss if one of the centers goes off line and you have all these other centers available," he said.

But that may be small consolation to the hundreds of people who faithfully dropped off materials in Overlea.

"The place was convenient, it was accessible and it was crowded with people every weekend," said Glen Lovell, who lives in the area and dropped off materials twice a month. "I probably won't recycle nearly as much as I do now."

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