The blue bags of Baltimore

February 18, 1992

During the next couple of weeks you'll hear more about blue bags than you ever wanted to. The reason is that Baltimore is gradually changing over to a citywide recycling program and blue see-through plastic bags are a key element.

As neighborhood after neighborhood switches from two weekly garbage pickups to one regular trash collection and one recycling pickup, those blue bags are to be used for glass bottles, aluminum cans and plastic containers and jugs. Garbage crews will alternate between picking up these items one week and paper products the next.

This system has been tried out in Pittsburgh, where it works. Will it work in Baltimore, where many neighborhoods could have a daily pickup and still be trashy?

The administration of Kurt L. Schmoke thinks the system will work in most neighborhoods, although the mayor acknowledges that some problem areas will still require two weekly pickups of regular trash. "I think a year from now we will have gotten out of our growing pains," Mr. Schmoke predicts.

During the past couple of weeks, City Hall has conducted a high-intensity propaganda blitz to win the cooperation of municipal workers. Meanwhile, pupils at public schools have been signing pledges in which they promise to make sure everyone in their family will recycle.

The second phase of the propaganda blitz is now starting. Thousands of Baltimoreans will find blue bags on their door knobs. Inside those bags is literature, sample garbage bags and a coloring book for kids. "Waste is everything we throw away," it says. "Many things we throw away can be recycled."

Curbside recycling is already available in some neighborhoods. Last July, city crews collected 392 tons of recyclable paper; by December that number had skyrocketed to 908 tons.

Kenneth J. Strong, the city's new recycling coordinator, predicts that 50 percent of the city will have one regular garbage collection and one recycling pickup by July. As the program gradually expands, Baltimore "will have one of the largest and most comprehensive programs in the country." Recycling is an idea whose time has come. Without recycling not only Baltimore but the whole nation threatens to be overwhelmed by garbage. We commend the city for its ambitious program, and we urge our readers to respond to this challenge.

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