The City That Recycles

February 20, 1992

Pleading it is too poor to comply with a 1989 recycling law, New York City is planning to cancel its ambitious goals in collecting glass, metal, paper and plastic. Baltimore City is not in great financial shape either, but here the administration is going ahead with a far-reaching recycling plan.

By July, 50 percent of the city's neighborhoods will move from two weekly garbage pickups to a system in which regular trash is picked up on the first of the two weekly pickup days and recyclables on the second. Once the system is gradually expanded throughout the city "we will have one of the largest and most comprehensive programs in the country," says Kenneth J. Strong, the city's new recycling coordinator.

The city has begun a massive information campaign to make residents aware of the new system. Blue bags containing leaflets and sample recycling bags are being distributed to every household. Meanwhile, 540 volunteers are being trained to be recycling block captains.

A number of recycling approaches have been tried in U.S. cities. Some work, others don't. Baltimore's approach has been modeled after a successful one in Pittsburgh. On alternating weeks, residents are expected to put out bottles and cans -- in blue plastic bags -- and recyclable paper in paper or cardboard containers.

Some supermarket chains already are bagging their customers' groceries in blue bags. Larger-sized blue bags will soon be sold in many stores to help recyclers. Those bags are so constructed that garbage crews can see through them to make sure the contents are recyclable.

The change from two weekly garbage collections to one regular pickup and a recycling pickup will present a challenge to people and the city crews. Some residents are certain to resent it and see it as a decline in sanitation services. Recycling activists argue, however, that this arrangement will enable the city to launch a recycling effort without the kinds of increased costs that ran the New York City program into trouble. They also point to savings because the tonnage of garbage needing landfilling will plummet.

Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke appears confident that Baltimoreans will accept the new trash collection arrangement and "a year from now we will have gotten out of our growing pains."

This newspaper believes that recycling is one of the elements that is needed to solve the nation's growing garbage crisis. There is strong evidence that the amount of household waste drastically decreases once aluminum cans and plastic containers are flattened and separated for recycling with glass bottles and jars. Baltimore's citywide recycling effort is a commendable one and deserves citizens' support.

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