Harford County officials unveiled yesterday a voluntary, countywide curbside recycling plan designed to start catching up with the rest of the Baltimore region by January.
Under a bill that Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann is to send to the County Council Tuesday, the service will be available for homes in Harford after Jan. 20.
"It's something to make up for the ground we've lost in the past two years," Robert E. Williamson, public works director, said during a news conference at the county's waste-to-energy plant in Magnolia.
Although the county has the nation's oldest private recycling center, it has lagged since the state required localities to develop a plan to cut 15 percent of their waste by January 1994.
Curbside recycling is under way in several Baltimore neighborhoods and will be expanded citywide by December.
The metropolitan counties have begun phasing in recycling programs, and Montgomery County has required residents to separate newspapers for more than a decade.
Harford residents would have the option of separating their newspapers, yard clippings and glass, plastic and aluminum containers into three separate, plastic bags.
"We believe there is a commitment by a number of citizens in Harford County to recycle," Ms. Rehrmann said.
"Nothing would be better than people volunteering and working in a partnership with the county rather than the government telling them what to do," she said.
Under the plan, every household would be subject to a new monthly fee of about $2 on top of their regular trash service charge, which is typically $8.
Residents also would have to buy a supply of special, recyclable, blue plastic bags at a cost of about $1.79 for a box of 10. They are to be available in stores countywide by January.
The recycling program will cost only about $1.8 million to launch, including less than $500,000 to pay for modifications to allow for more traffic at the county's Scarboro landfill and sorting machinery at the waste-to-energy plant, which converts trash into steam for Aberdeen Proving Ground.
The county's goal is to recycle 25 percent of the 157,000 tons of trash that it produces annually. But the private, non-profit Susquehannock Environmental Center, which identifies markets for recyclables for the county, handled only about 2,000 tons of trash last year.