Harford Co. prepares recycling education Volunteers would promote the program.

August 16, 1991|By Bruce Reid | Bruce Reid,Evening Sun Staff

Harford County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann's administration is gearing up for a broad-based educational campaign aimed at getting the county's 63,000 households recycling their trash by early next year.

Judy Scotten, Harford's recycling coordinator, is proposing a "network" of volunteers from community groups, schools, businesses and county offices to help promote recycling. "If the citizenry doesn't feel a part of it, you're in trouble," she said.

The county also may try to recruit large corporations to help pay the cost of the educational campaign, Scotten and other officials said.

Before the $2 million-per-year recycling program can be set in motion, the Rehrmann administration and the County Council must resolve a number of issues about how it would work.

The council held the second of two work sessions on recycling this week. It is scheduled to hold a public hearing Sept. 3 before it votes on whether to accept Rehrmann's recycling plan or change it.

County officials, drawing on the recycling experiences of Pittsburgh, Chicago, Houston and other jurisdictions, are proposing a "blue-bag" program for curbside collection of recyclables.

Residents would collect used paper, beverage containers, yard clippings and other recyclables in blue-colored plastic bags. According to Rehrmann's plan, the bags then would be set out with regular trash to be picked up by private haulers.

From there, the haulers would take the recyclables and trash to LLTC processing plant at the county incinerator in Magnolia, where the blue bags would be pulled out. Then the recyclables would be packaged for shipment to manufacturers.

Officials estimate the new system will cost each household about $2 a month more than the $8 a month they now pay on average for private garbage pick-up.

The blue-bag program would be the first among Maryland jurisdictions, which are required by state law to be recycling as much as 20 percent of their trash by 1994.

Harford officials say about 6 percent of the 168,000 tons of trash collected from county homes and businesses in 1990 was recycled voluntarily at drop-off centers and through other programs. The state mandate requires Harford to be recycling at least 15 percent of its trash by 1994.

Curbside collection systems in other jurisdictions use plastic tubs or other open containers. Those systems require the use of compartmentalized trucks. Rehrmann officials contend that the bag program would be more efficient and less expensive, because it would make use of existing trash trucks and manpower.

In Harford, the major debate now focuses on whether residents would be asked to set out recyclables and trash at both of the twice-weekly pick-up days, as Rehrmann is proposing, or whether recyclables would be collected one day and trash the other.

Councilwoman Theresa M. Pierno, D-District C, maintained that residents would have more of an incentive to recycle if they knew trash was to be picked up once a week. "I don't see it as a big inconvenience," she said.

Separate collections for recyclables and trash, Pierno and other council members say, may mean that more recyclables would be collected and fewer would be contaminated by liquids and other waste in trash. But Rehrmann officials contend that collecting recyclables and trash at the same time would be more efficient for haulers and better for residents.

Larry Klimovitz, county director of administration, said picking up trash once a week "would be a diminution of service" for residents.

Council members also are concerned that Rehrmann is planning to begin recycling at all county households at once, rather than phasing it in in portions of the county.

The method of processing recyclables for sale and shipment to manufacturers, who then re-use the material, is another major issue. The Rehrmann administration and the council are debating whether to build a sorting plant at the Magnolia incinerator, which is privately operated, or whether to contract with another company in the region.

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