There's something ironic about county bureaucrats' carrying off little potted trees back to the same offices where they shuffle through mountains of paper.
But it seemed a fitting symbol of a new recycling effort launched yesterday in 14 county office buildings.
"You are the key to making our paper-recycling program a success.We're asking citizens to recycle. We have to set the example," County Executive Robert R. Neall told the 41 recycling captains who were commissioned with the presentation of potted white pine seedlings.
The county must do more than set an example. Its new CORP -- County Office Paper Recycling Program -- is part of efforts to recycle 20 percent of the solid waste stream by 1994, as required by state law.
County business and industry bury almost 460,000 tons of trash in Anne Arundel landfills every year. County government tosses away about 5,000 tons at the Millersville landfill.
CORP should allow the county to recycle more than 2 tons of paper every week.
Neall and the 41 CORP captains began the effort by dumping paper from his office into one of the large blue plastic bins that have been placed in countyoffice buildings.
The county has contracted Browning Ferris Industries to collect, process and market the recycled paper. The company provided cardboard desk-side collection boxes for employees todepositcomputer tear sheets, index cards, photocopy paper, letterhead and typing paper.
The new program is designed to pay for itself, PublicWorks Director Parker Andrews said. The only cost to the county is for BFI to haul the paper away.
But the contract is designed that the county must pay BFI only if it cannot recoup the trucking cost when it sells the paper.
"That's a net-zero cost with what BFI expects to get," Bureau of Solid Waste Administration Richard Waesche said.
The program is similar to older efforts to recycle newspapers, which account for the biggest single item going into landfills nationwide. Backed by legal requirements in many states, those programs have been so successful that the supply of recycled newsprint has glutted the market and many counties have ended up paying to get rid of newspapers.
But the market for recycled office paper should not suffer similar problems, Waesche said.
"The problem with newspapers is it's already at the bottom of the market. The only thing you can do with it is make more newsprint," he said.
But office paper is higher quality than newsprint and is better-suited for use in cardboard and other recycled projects, Andrews said.
The county has launched other recycling efforts in recent years, including curbside service for 25,000 households, drop-off sites, scrap metal recycling, composting and safe disposal of hazardous wastes.
Symbolic of the effort to save trees and landfill space, the pine seedlings distributed yesterday were potted in leaf compost from the Millersville landfill.
Efforts at county schools have been so successful, Parker said, that children have been bringing in trash from home.
County officials hope CORP will produce the same enthusiasm among county employees, Andrewssaid.
"This is good on-the-job training for us," he said.