Recycling volunteers get fed up with Baltimore Co. Hayden seeks delay of curbside program

October 16, 1991|By Liz Bowie

Thousands of volunteers who have devoted their Saturday mornings for the past year to keeping Baltimore County's recycling centers alive are coming to a clear consensus.

Their work has got to end.

And so they are telling County Executive Roger B. Hayden that it is time for the county government to take over. They want county trucks to pick up old newspapers, glass, aluminum, tin and plastic in front of people's houses.

But with the recession biting into the county budget, Mr. Hayden has no plans to promise curbside recycling in the near future. In a state of the county address yesterday, Mr. Hayden said he will be asking the state for leniency in meeting a mandate to recycle 20 percent of Baltimore County garbage by 1994. Such an action would postpone expansion of curbside collection in the county.

The recycling advocates charge that Mr. Hayden has dragged his feet in providing curbside recycling, particularly compared with Baltimore, where, despite hard times, curbside collection of paper, plastic, aluminum, tin and glass will be available to nearly all residents by the end of the year.

"It is not fair for the county to base their solid waste problems on the back of volunteers," said Daniel Jerrems, chairman of the Baltimore Recycling Coalition, which includes both county and city residents. "The drop-off centers are going great guns, but there is a limit to how long the volunteers can hold out."

An estimated 10 percent of county residents now recycle at 11 centers, keeping thousands of tons of waste out of landfills and incinerators over the past two years. For instance, 850 cars will drop off recyclables on an average Saturday at GrassRoots Recycling Inc. at the Milford Mill Metro stop.

But the centers that have been around the longest are finding it increasingly difficult to find volunteers willing to give up three hours on a Saturday.

And even where the volunteer enthusiasm has remained strong, the volunteers say too few county residents are willing to bring their trash to a center. "We are only reaching a small percentage of households in Baltimore County," said Carol Bernstein, president of GrassRoots. "We feel there has to be a much more comprehensive program that includes educating the public." Countywide, only 2 percent of all residential waste is being recycled.

The problem, recycling advocates say, is that the Hayden administration has not been committed to recycling. "There is just a token effort to get curbside started," Mr. Jerrems said. "The support just hasn't been there."

In addition, he said, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke's Democratic administration and the Republican Hayden administration are not working together on a regional approach to recycling, despite a promise to do so.

But County Administrator Merreen Kelly said the problem is money. The county estimates that it would cost $5 million between now and 1994 to start curbside collection of paper, leaves and grass clippings. "Can we really afford to spend that to get it into place?" he said. "If we weren't in a recession we could do it."

Despite tight budgets, the state can force the county to provide curbside collection in at least some areas by enforcing the mandate to recycle 20 percent of trash. Officials say the county cannot meet the 20 percent goal with the volunteer effort alone. The Maryland General Assembly in 1989 passed a law requiring recycling in order to reduce the amount of waste going to rapidly filling landfills and incinerators, both of which are unpopular with neighbors.

The county is now providing curbside collection to 5,400 households in three areas: the Dundalk area in the southeast, the Overlea area in the central section of the county and the Woodbridge Valley area in the west.

A meeting with Mr. Hayden on the recycling issue has been scheduled for 7 p.m. Nov. 13 at Loch Raven Senior High School.

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