SYKESVILLE -- Ed Price barked out addresses from a crumpled computer printout listing 98 customers, while partner Donald Bennett navigated the new $58,000 recycling truck through narrow country lanes and tony subdivisions, searching for green bins.
The work day was almost too easy for Mr. Price. There was no trash to throw, none of the usual ripped bags of rotting food. Just neatly packed grocery bags of paper products and recycling bins full of plastic, glass, aluminum and tin containers.
There was hardly any reason for Mr. Price to stay perched on the outside of the long, compartmentalized truck -- only about one out of five customers scattered along the South Carroll route left anything by the curb to greet the two workers from Fogle's Refuse & Septic Service Inc.
Some customers who contacted Fogle's to request recycling services and a free bin didn't leave materials out, either because they forgot, overslept or are storing recyclables for later pickup.
But company President David Fogle is glad to start off slow and build up recycling business. Thursday was the first full-blown recycling effort for the hauler.
The county's ordinance requiring all trash haulers serving Carroll residents to offer recycling pickup went into effect Wednesday. Recycling is voluntary for residents living in unincorporated areas, but soon will be mandatory in Westminster and Mount Airy.
Fogle's had offered a more limited recycling program since February and advertised it on monthly bills, but only about 20 customers -- or 5 percent -- on Mr. Bennett's route of 400 trash customers consistently participated. About 10 days ago, the company mailed letters to its 5,000 customers explaining its recycling program. About 1,000 customers -- 20 percent -- now have requested recycling service and a free bin, says Mr. Fogle.
Still, picking up at one out of five houses on a rural route where subdivisions and houses are spaced far apart is not profitable or efficient, says Mr. Fogle.
The phone in his office was ringing constantly last week with new recyclers, says Mr. Fogle. He wants to have about half of his customers participating by the end of the month, and says he will continue an education campaign.
He says he's pleased that the county commissioners decided on a voluntary program, rather than mandatory, as county staff and the Recycling Committee recommended.
"If it was mandatory, it would be easier running the routes, but it would be a lot more to handle all at one time," he says.
Mr. Bennett drove a 50-mile route to handle about 25 recycling customers on his last run prior to the July 1 start of the curbside program. Though that route afforded a "relaxing day," Mr. Bennett says he'd "just as soon see it mandatory. Let's get it done." Thursday's 98-customer recycling route covered about 100 miles, he estimated.
There were only a few instances of recycling no-nos Thursday: cardboard boxes that weren't flattened and folded; milk cartons; and recyclables stored in plastic bags. Mr. Fogle says customers sometimes put out plastics that can't be recycled.
Fogle's sends both a trash truck and a recycling truck on the same route on the same day, once a week. That service costs residents $13.90 per month, $166.80 per year. Other haulers have devised different systems.
For Fogle's customers who don't recycle, once-a-week trash pickup costs $14.90 per month, $178.80 per year.
Mr. Fogle offers a discount for recycling as an incentive. The fees
his company pays for dumping trash at a county landfill will decrease as recycling increases and volume is eliminated from the waste stream.
"Eventually it will pay me to keep educating people and get them to do it," he says.
He had been charging $2 per month for recycling until this month, but now there's no extra charge for the service, he says. However, Fogle's fees have increased $4 per month because the county raised the fee for dumping trash at landfills from $15 per ton to $40. The average household generates 1 to 1.5 tons of trash per year without recycling, which translates to between $40 and $60 in annual landfill fees.
Fogle says "it remains to be seen" if rates will go down for customers as recycling increases.