County's Recycling Options

Commissioners Get Panel's Proposal

December 22, 1991|By Adam Sachs | Adam Sachs,Staff writer

Belinda Von Gunten would be willing to pay up to about $30 per year for the convenience of curbside recycling, but no more, because her family would recycle avidly using other outlets anyway.

The county might be able to meet the Westminster resident's asking price.

Households would pay $24 a year for a countywide curbside recycling program under a bid recommended to the county commissioners by a staff panel and the Recycling Committee.

The two groups also recommended that the county contract with one trash hauling company to provide curbside collection in Carroll's eight municipalities and unincorporated areas and to transport recyclables to an end destination for processing.

But Westminster resident Michele Glock, whose family also habitually recycles, said she resents the county "attacking pocketbooks rather than consciences." She says she'd rather deal independently with a private hauler and take her chances with fees.

Both the Von Guntens and the Glocks are customers of Finksburg-based S&B Hauling Inc., which has run an experimental curbside recycling program since August at no additional cost to customers. The participation rate in the voluntary program has averaged about 30 percent, S&B President Sandy Gover said.

Under a second option, the county would contract only with a company that processes recyclables. That would allow the 10 or so private trash haulers serving county residents to arrange for recycling with individual clients and transport the materials to the contractor.

Under each option, Phoenix Recycling Inc., a Finksburg plant operated by the owner of a local trash hauling company, was recommended over two national competitors, Browning-Ferris Inc. and Eastern Waste Industries. BFI's bid for collection and processing is $35.16 per household per year. EWI's is $23.99, but the company wouldn't recycle paper or provide collecting bins to households.

Thecommittee and staff recommended commingling, which would allow residents to place all glass, steel, aluminum and plastic in one bin or bag and urged that household recycling be mandatory. The committee has not decided whether to ban certain items, such as yard waste, from landfills.

Financing and enforcement provisions are still being developed.

In the option employing one trash hauler, the county would pay the refuse company. The county would charge residents, possibly through a direct levy on the property tax bill, a 2- to 3-cent increase in the county property tax rate, or an increase in landfill fees. The estimated cost of a curbside program is $750,000 per year.

If the 10 or more local trash haulers got involved in the curbside recycling business, they would bill their clients. Under that option, municipalities that contract with trash haulers would form their own plans.

"It would be difficult to come to a consensus about the program with 10 haulers, so that seems to preclude that option," Recycling Committee Chairman Jim Thomas said, adding that an education program could be more easily coordinated under a centralized system.

The commissioners, who will evaluate the two options and review the recycling bids, have differing opinions on how the county should operate the service. They are not obliged to accept any bids or the recommended options.

Curbside recycling is expected to start July 1 or later and likely will be phased in, starting with urban areas. Under state law, Carroll must recycle 15 percent of its waste stream by 1994. In 1991, about 5.2 percent of waste generated in the county has been spared from the landfills.

Commissioner Elmer C. Lippy said he favors allowing one private trash hauler to run the program and prefers separating recycling from regular trash collection. Such an operation could be more efficiently administered and would allow the county to gauge more precisely the cost of recycling, he said.

Commissioner President Donald I. Dell said he's concerned about protecting business for the small, independent trash haulers operating in the county. Though the smaller haulers could retain their trash pick-up customers, Dell said he could envision a larger company employed by the county for recycling eventually courting away trash collection business.

He said it would be inefficient to have trash trucks followed on the roads by recycling trucks, especially when S&B has demonstrated it can provide both services with one truck at the same time.

Commissioner Julia W. Gouge said she needs more time to study the options.

Glock said the county should focus on a strong education effort to encourage participation, rather than "punishing the people who already are recycling" by imposing a fee.

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