Fact: An estimated 504 tons of paper were dropped off at Baltimore County's 10 recycling centers in January, enough newspapers to build a stack nearly nine miles tall.
Fact: Baltimore County uses roughly 49 million sheets of paper every year, enough to make a stack about three miles tall.
County officials, inspired by how much paper is being dropped off, want to make sure that more of the paper used by the county is recycled.
Yesterday, County Council members Melvin G. Mintz, D-2nd, and William A. Howard IV, R-6th, held a hearing on their proposed ordinance to require that 40 percent of the paper purchased by the county be recycled paper.
The measure, modeled after a proposed ordinance in Baltimore, also would require two-sided copying for any document over six pages and recommends that consultants use "recycled and recyclable paper" in county reports.
It also calls for the use of recycled materials whenever possible in plastic products, auto parts, insulation, solvents, rubber products and refined oils used by the county.
The bill is to be introduced at Monday night's council meeting but will not be up for a vote until next month.
Both council members say the measure would reduce the amount of space needed at area landfills and would demonstrate a commitment to recycling at a time when crowds are flooding into recycling centers to drop off newspapers, cans and bottles.
"I think the sentiment is definitely out there for us to move in the direction of recycling, whenever and where ever possible," Mr.Mintz said.
Charles Reighart, county recycling coordinator, said more than 2,000 volunteers have signed up to work at the 10 drop-off centers scattered throughout the county. The amount of paper dropped off has grown from 50 tons in July 1990 to 504 tons in January.
Another 5,350 of the county's 282,000 households are offered curbside collection of recyclable materials, he said. That program may be expanded, pending an evaluation of its cost and its operations.
County officials said paper is the major issue. The county buys 99,000 reams of paper each year, officials said yesterday. Each 500-page ream is about 2 inches thick.
"Governments are a big purchaser," said Wendy Royalty, a community planner for the Regional Council of Governments. "That's why government has to lead the way" in recycling.
A bill proposed by Baltimore City Councilman Wilbur E. "Bill" Cunningham, D-3rd, which would require the city to buy recycled paper, is being studied by city agencies, she said.
Recycling measures have been enacted in some form by 60 local governments, including Anne Arundel, Montgomery, Prince George's and Howard counties and the city of Rockville, said Richard Keller, recycling project manager for the Northeast Maryland Waste Disposal Authority.
But Dan Jerrems, president of Atlantic Recycled Paper Co. of Baltimore and chairman of the Maryland Recycling Coalition, said a major problem with mandating recycled paper is that it adds to the cost of government.
He said there are far fewer paper mills churning out recycled paper than there are mills producing virgin paper, translating into higher costs for recycled paper.
"The problem is that in a recession, the costs for your recycling program may go way up," Mr. Keller said.
Joanne S. Deitz, the Baltimore County chief of purchasing services, said a cost analysis in Anne Arundel County found that it cost only $21,000 more to purchase recycled paper instead of virgin paper.
"We can always buy a product cheaper. But if the commitment is there, then you have to follow through on that commitment," Ms. Deitz said. She was unsure how much extra expense the larger Baltimore County government might face.
She said that her office is already promoting recycling, with contracts recently awarded to one vendor who used recycled plastic to make picnic benches and to another who used old tires for asphalt sealant to patch roads.
Mrs. Deitz objected to a stipulation in the bill that would allow purchasing agents to award contracts to bidders who used recycled products even their prices were up to 5 percent higher than bids offered by vendors using non-recycled materials.