Bottles and cans are good for recycling.
Old sofas and broken televisions are not.
That difference has cost several hundred ecology-conscious residents of Northwest Baltimore a prime weekend recycling spot on a Mass Transit Administration parking lot at Northern Parkway and Wabash Avenue.
Saying that the lot had become a dump -- with mattresses, couches and air conditioners regularly discarded, along with all manner of trash -- the MTA declared yesterday the last day for recycling there.
"People were bringing trash on other days," said Helen Dale, an MTA spokeswoman. "The debris has blown all over the parking lot. We encourage recycling, but the recycling project jeopardized our ability to maintain standards of cleanliness."
And for the second time in about eight months, folks in Northwest Baltimore who need a legitimate place to drop off recyclable material have been forced to look elsewhere.
The MTA site on Wabash Avenue replaced a similar operation at Poly-Western High School that ended last fall, when the city began curbside recycling service in selected neighborhoods.
"I'm angry," said Linda Loew, a Mount Washington resident who dropped off recyclables at Wabash Avenue yesterday.
"I don't have curbside [collection]," she said. "They closed Poly,and now they've closed this. Smaller cities have curbside recycling, and rural areas have it. I don't know why a big city can't."
Municipal curbside recycling service is not expected in Baltimore until the end of next year.
Larry M. Kloze, a 51-year-old antiques dealer who regularly worked as a volunteer at the MTA recycling site, said he wishes the agency had tried to work something out with the recyclers before declaring their parking lot off-limits.
"It's a great site," he said. "People have developed good ecological habits and will be forced to go back to their old ways and fill up the landfills again. I'd like to see the MTA postpone this decision until another site can be located."
Northwest Baltimore Corp., the organization responsible for the program at Northern Parkway and Wabash Avenue, dropped off fliers there yesterday giving the locations of three other weekend recycling sites: the Owings Mills MTA station, the Milford Mills MTA station and the 33rd Street parking lot across from Memorial Stadium.
At the stadium site, a festival celebrating recycling efforts there by seven neighborhoods went on while people dropped off enough newspaper to fill a tractor-trailer and a garbage truck's worth of plastic bottles.
"We've been doing it from 8 a.m. to noon every Saturday, rain or shine, since November 1989, except when there's an Orioles game that day," said Sandy Sparks of the Greater Homewood Association.
Ms. Sparks said the lot is not used for general dumping by the public because, unlike the MTA lot on Wabash Avenue, Dumpsters used for recycling are removed promptly.
"If people don't drive by and see a Dumpster, they don't get any ideas," she said.