Baltimore officials have been scrambling to correct a glitch in the city's evolving recycling program.
This week, city officials began asking 40,000 households in Northeast and Southeast Baltimore to put recyclable containers in blue, semi-transparent plastic bags for collection at curbside.
Problem is, the bags are not yet for sale at supermarkets and other retail outlets in the city.
Recycling officials quickly made arrangements to have blue bags available for free temporarily at all 50 city fire stations and the 15 mayor's stations scattered through out the city. Distribution was completed yesterday.
Kenneth J. Strong, city recycling coordinator, said officials hurried to make more bags readily available, thinking that fire stations were accessible to most people. The fire stations are open 24 hours a day.
"I don't want people to become discouraged," he said.
The bags, when they arrive on shelves, will be kitchen-size Hefty and Glad trash bags, he said.
Bags of one color will be easy for collection crews to spot, he added.
The bags, rather than rigid plastic bins now used in some city neighborhoods, also allow city crews to collect plastic, aluminum, tin and glass containers in standard trash trucks. Otherwise, expensive, compartmentalized vehicles must be purchased and crews must sort the material at curbside.
Recyclables are being picked up in front or back of houses, at the same location as trash, on the second trash pickup day of the week. Used paper, including old newspapers, cardboard and junk mail, should be tied in bundles or put in paper grocery bags at curbside.
Makers of the bags and some supermarkets "had assured us that the blue bags would be on the shelves when the program commenced this week," Mr. Strong said. "They were overly optimistic."
Mark Roeder, a spokesman for Giant Food Inc., which operates five stores in the city, said that the Baltimore stores would have the recycling bags on the shelves within a week. They will cost $1.49 for a box of 10 bags, he said.
About the delay in stocking the bags, Mr. Roeder said, "We said we would do as best we could."
Mike Flanagan, a spokesman for Basics, which operates 3 supermarkets in the city, said his company would be stocking the recycling bags within two weeks. They will sell for $1.35 for a box of 10, he said.
Mr. Flanagan added that city officials asked Basics late last week to begin stocking the bags.
By this spring, Mr. Roeder said, Giant stores will begin bagging groceries in blue plastic bags that can then be used for recyclables.
"Most of the bigger chains have said they are willing to do that," Mr. Strong said.
The recycling office is in the process of hand-delivering an information packet about the blue-bag program to all 233,000 households that receive pickup of recyclables. One sample blue bag is included in the packet, as well as a coupon to purchase more bags at a discount.
Another 40,000 households in Northwest and Southwest Baltimore were scheduled to receive information packets this week, with pickup starting next week, Mr. Strong said.
The following week, another 40,000 homes in east-central Baltimore are to be offered pickup of recyclables as part of the program.
Curbside collection is scheduled to be offered throughout the city by mid-March.