Separate Those Cans and Papers

August 11, 1991

If the recycling phenomenon hasn't touched your household yet, to steal a phrase from the baseball legend Satchel Paige, "Don't look over your shoulder; it might be gaining on you."

That's especially true in Baltimore City and Anne Arundel and Howard counties, where new local budgets that went into effect July 1 include strong pushes for recycling aimed at residential areas.

In little more than a month, some form of voluntary recycling on a routine basis will involve all 230,000 single-family homes in Baltimore City. Within the next year, Anne Arundel County's recycling programs are scheduled to double -- touching 50,000 households, instead of the current 25,000. And in Howard County, the current 12,000 households is expected to become 18,000 with continued phasing in of trash collection routes countywide. In each of these jurisdictions, attention also is being paid to boosting business participation in recycling. Elsewhere in the metropolitan area, Baltimore County's efforts are lagging badly. It is still studying ways to expand three small pilot programs involving 5,400 households, but claims significant commercial recycling success. Recycling plans for Carroll and Harford counties are only in their infancy.

The "whip" for this recycling explosion is a 1988 state law mandating recycling by January 1994 of 20 percent of trash generated in jurisdictions over 150,000 population and 15 percent in smaller counties. So successful have their initial programs been that city, Anne Arundel, Baltimore and Howard County recycling officials are express confidence they'll hit, if not exceed, the 1994 target.

Area residential programs thus far have sought only voluntary participation. But as experience increases and as private haulers enhance their capabilities and recycling markets emerge, homeowners can expect firmer approaches. The city, Anne Arundel and Howard programs are moving toward one "regular" trash pick-up a week and one recyclable pick-up. The theory is that as recycling increases, the need for "regular" pickups drops.

Despite the state-level mandate, metropolitan Baltimore jurisdictions seem to be tailoring their respective efforts to their own particular needs. But with some significant successes now apparent, the lagging counties and general public can benefit from improved governmental contact across jurisdictions. Also, as was demonstrated by a localized spat over adding new Columbia areas to the recycling program, the public still needs more specific information about how recycling works and why it's important.

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