County Recycling Still Lags

Commissioners Face State's 1994 Deadline

August 11, 1991|By Darren M. Allen | Darren M. Allen,Staff writer

For most residents of the Baltimore area, recycling is coming closerto home.

In Harford County, residents will be able to put their unseparated recyclables alongside their household trash under a voluntary program beginning Jan. 20.

In Baltimore, all of the city's 233,000 households will be servedby curbside recycling services by January.

In Anne Arundel County, more than 50,000 of the county's 110,000 homes are expected to havecurbside pickup by next March, up from about 6,000 homes in 1988.

But as most of the metropolitan area and larger cities in southern Pennsylvania are aggressively putting recycling programs in operation,Carroll County is in the middle of its latest study of the issue.

The issue is hardly new to the county this year. In fact, says Commissioner Vice President Elmer C. Lippy, recycling has been progressingin dribs and drabs for years.

But with the pressure of having to recycle more than 15 percent of the 160,000 tons of trash produced annually here by 1994, the commissioners and other officials are beginning to put recycling on the fast track.

Before the 15 percent standard becomes a reality, the commissioners, trash haulers and environmentalists have to come to an understanding.

Carroll now recycles about 6 percent of its waste, less than half of what it needs to accomplish by the state-imposed 1994 deadline.

"I'm not saying that we aren't doing it, because we are," said J. Michael Evans, director of the county's Department of General Services and the person charged with putting a recycling plan in place by November.

"Everybody seemsto be experimenting with it," he said. "Yes, some areas are ahead ofus. But in the end, I have no doubt that we will be immensely successful."

The prospects for success, however, depend on whom you talkto.

One of the biggest problems for the commissioners is the integration of recycling into the county's mostly scattershot, once-a-week residential trash collection system.

Homeowners outside of Carroll's eight towns must contract with a trash hauler, usually at a costof $80 to $160 a year for weekly collection.

Carroll's system is one of the most expensive for the homeowner. By comparison, Harford homeowners -- who also contract with individual haulers -- pay $90 to $120 a year for twice-weekly collection.

And in Anne Arundel, Howard and Baltimore counties, homeowners pay an average of $50 to $80 a week for twice-weekly collection.

In those counties, the government sets up districts in which individual haulers must bid for the right to collect garbage. That system, recycling officials say, has simplified curbside collection programs.

"It could not be done economically if we had individual haulers for each homeowner," said Amy Burdick, Anne Arundel County's

recycling project administrator. "We already had waste-collection routes established, and that made it easierto plan our recycling program."

Westminster Mayor W. Benjamin Brown has lobbied the commissioners for a $100,000 recycling pilot program with a trash hauler for the 11,000 homes in and around Westminster. For him, setting up districts for regular competitive bids is the way to go.

But to Commissioner President Donald I. Dell, setting upcompetitively bid collection districts, even for the purpose of curbside recycling, smacks of unnecessary government intervention.

"I can say it very succinctly," Dell said. "You always end up paying more when the government gets involved."

However, in Lancaster County, where the control of trash collection is up to the county's 60 municipalities, the cost of trash collection in areas without government-set districts is more

than $200 a year for once-a-week collection.In municipalities that rely on competitive bidding, homeowners pay about $130 a year.

"There's an efficiency of collection that you just can't get with single haulers," said Jim Warner, recycling managerof the Lancaster County Solid Waste Authority.

Efficiency of collection is something at least one Carroll homeowner wouldn't mind seeing.

"I'd like to see it cheaper," said Barbara Fox, who lives on Daisy Drive in Taneytown and pays $142 a year for once-weekly collection by Hughes Trash Removal.

At the same time Lancaster County -- as well as Baltimore and the counties of Anne Arundel and Howard -- are setting up recycling programs alongside their trash collection routes, Harford County is taking a look at the "blue-bag" collection program in Omaha, Neb.

Under the program, all private haulers will be required to pick up recyclables along with regular

household trash.

The Omaha program, in place since March, has reduced the waste stream by about 5 percent. The city of 320,000 contracts with a singlehauler for about $74 a year per home.

Such a system could be refined in Carroll and carried out by the county's seven haulers, said the owner of one small hauler.

"The small haulers are willing to recycle," said Joe Gover, an owner of Finksburg's S & B Hauling Inc. Hiscompany finished on Friday its first week of a 3,500-home pilot curbside program. The participation rate was about 14 percent. Gover saidall his company had to do was modify its trucks to keep the blue bags separate from trash.

"We're a part of our communities," he said."We look out for each other, and all we're looking for is a directive from the county commissioners on how to do recycling."

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