Living in a changing and sensitive environment that fronts on the Chesapeake Bay, Harford County residents are becoming increasingly vocal about ecological issues. They want to protect nature -- and their quality of life.
Harford's elected representatives are responding. The county council unanimously approved a bill that will require developers -- including the county itself -- to preserve or replant trees on building sites. Now comes County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann's proposal to start voluntary, countywide curbside recycling early next year.
If the county council approves the Rehrmann plan, Harford households will be asked to buy easily recognizable blue recycling bags at grocery and hardware stores and then use one bag for old newspapers, another one for bottles and plastic and metal containers and a third one for yard waste. Those bags would then be picked up by haulers on regular collection days twice a week, along with bags of unseparated trash.
Some key details are still up in the air. The additional collection fee has not been determined, for example, although county officials estimate that curbside collection would increase the monthly $8 garbage service fee households pay to haulers by $2. (An additional expense would be the blue bags, which would retail at about $1.79 for a box of 10).
In deciding on this recycling approach, the Rehrmann administration rejected building a $10 million trash sorter. The facility would have augmented the bag separation program by catching recyclables residents failed to sort out at home. Such a machine is still an option, depending on how the purely voluntary program goes.
We urge County Council President Jeffrey Wilson to waste no time in scheduling public hearings on the Rehrmann plan. The summer is a good time to get citizen attention and input so that recycling can be started without much further delay. Harford, after all, has been tardy in coming up with its plan while other jurisdictions have gone ahead with recycling programs.
The garbage problem in Harford County -- and the whole metropolitan area -- cannot be solved without efficient recycling. The Rehrmann program is a start. But to succeed, it will need months of intense public education.
Every household counts in making a voluntary program work.