Curbside Controversy

Bag It, Irate Respondents Say Of Recycling Proposal

December 15, 1991|By Carol L. Bowers

A county trash hauler who has been surveying his customers since September about the county's proposed trash recycling plan says most respondents are hopping mad.

Edna Matterson, of Bel Air, is among them.

She mailed a copy of her completed survey -- with a few added comments -- to the County Council.

"I don't think they're looking at the long-range. Blue bags just don't do it," said Matterson, a Bel Air resident whose trash is now picked up twice a week by Harford Sanitation Inc., the county's largest trash company.

"You're going to put your stuff in plastic bags and hope somebody buys it? I was reallymad about that."

J. Robert Hooper, owner of Harford Sanitation, said he surveyed customers to alert them about the trash recycling propos

al, which would be launched next summer.

Matterson, who lives in Fallston, said she decided to send a copy of her form to the council because she's upset about the proposal to collect recyclables at curbside in blue plastic trash

bags.

"When I moved to HarfordCounty 20 years ago, Harford Sanitation told me I could not use plastic bags because animals ripped them," she wrote on her form. "Has this changed in recent years?"

Other customers said they don't want to foot the bill for recycling. They offered ideas on how to pay for it: have manufacturers pay for the cost of disposing of product packaging; increase county property taxes; and fine companies that use excessive amounts of packaging.

Several other customers echoed the sentiments of Dennis Cobb, who said he believes the county should have regional drop-off centers like the Susquehannock Environmental Center, a private, non-profit, recycling center in Bel Air, instead of curbside collection.

"We currently recycle all aluminum, steel, paper glass and No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 plastics. We need more convenient drop-off points," he wrote. "If given a choice, I think people will be responsible for recycling."

"We felt people should know this was coming. We've done three different mailings as part of our billing process, sending surveys to 4,000 customers at a time," said Hooper. "I wanted them to have a chance to vent their feelings about recycling."

Customers who pay their trash-collection bill in an annual payment did not receive the survey, Hooper said. He said about 25 percent of the customers surveyed have returned the forms to Harford Sanitation.

Hooper contends that customers who do sort recyclables are likely to see an average $100 increase in the amount they pay for trash collection each year if the council approves the $60-per-ton tipping fee.

The higher trash collection fees would result because haulers are expected to pass on the tipping fee cost, a cost they haven't hadto pay in Harford in recent years.

County residents now pay an average of $8 a month, or about $96 a year.

"The customers decided on their own to send copies to the County Council. I didn't ask them to do that," said Hooper, a former councilman from District D. "I can tell you they're unhappy."

WHAT WERE THEY ASKED

What were they asked?

Here are the questions Harford Sanitation Services Inc., a BelAir based trash hauler, asked customers about trash recycling.

* How important do you think recycling is? (on a scale of 1-very important to 10-not important)

* Should recycling be:

Mandatory

Voluntary

* Do you prefer:

Freedom to choose your own hauler

Required to use a government-assigned hauler

Curbside collection (by trash hauler at your home)

Drop-off centers (you deliver)

* What would you be willing to pay for curbside collection of recyclables?

* Rank these methods of funding:

$60 per ton disposal fee (about $100 per home)

Increase county tax

Private businesses to compete for recyclables with no government involvement except to construct processing centers.

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