WESTMINSTER — While their county government slowly works out a curbside recycling program, Toby Bigham and Michael Dobbins wasted no time launching their own.
They didn't need any committees or feasibility studies. They just did it.
The only rules they worry about are looking both ways before theycross the street and getting home before dark.
Every Saturday, Toby, 13, and Mike, 12, haul recyclables from their neighbors' front porches to the county recycling center a few miles away.
They stuff the cans and bottles into their book bags and stack the papers on a rack on Toby's Huffy 10-speed.
The transmission on his mother's carblew out, Toby explained. But anyway, he said, cars pollute.
He has only to wave his hand toward a few feet away, where, on South Center Street, a steady stream of cars, buses and trucks pump out exhaustfumes at his doorstep.
Mike, who lives on Green Street, is an animal lover. He feels sad for the rodents and dogs who can't resist thelure of a landfill and then are killed for foraging.
"I was reading in the newspaper about animals getting killed by plastic (trash) in the ocean," Mike said.
The boys' incentive isn't a badge or money, although they get a couple of dollars now and then for aluminum cans.
"I do it because I want to do it, just to save the Earth," said Toby.
After learning about shrinking space for landfills and other environmental issues from their science teacher, Dennis Kniss at East Middle School, the boys made their neighbors an offer they couldn't refuse -- free pick-up of recyclables once a week.
They left notes on porches after Christmas, and most of the neighbors have responded by leaving their bags out on Saturdays for the boys to pick up.
The note, in the boys' best printing, was hard for Eileen Shields, Mike's neighbor, to resist:
"Do you have stuff to recycle?" it said. "Well if you do, two boys will collect it."
After simple directions for bagging the bottles, cans and paper, the note closes with, "Thank you for helping keep our world clean and safe."
"It was touching, and not in a patronizing sense, but in a hopeful sense," said Shields, who is marketing director for the county. Toby's generation, she said, will be cleaning up after today's adults for a long time.
Like many of their peers, Toby and Mike are the recycling "bosses" in their families, Toby said. They monitor the trash can for stray bottles and cans and talk their parents into buying only ozone-safe products.
Toby has become an environmental zealot. His speech is peppered with ideas for urging more solar power and less waste and repairing appliances instead of just throwing them away.
He has discovered the Environmental Affairs Advisory Board, a group that advises thecounty commissioners, and has decided to attend its monthly meetings.
"I'm thinking about being an environmentalist, as a job, after high school, which would be in about four years or five years," Toby said.
Will the boys get tired of trudging back and forth with theirarms, bags and bike full of other people's castoffs?
"Maybe, but I'm still going to do it," Toby said. "This tiredness will only last for a while, but this trash will last forever."