Curbside in Baltimore County

March 30, 1993

Finally, recycling in Baltimore County enters the 1990s with County Executive Roger Hayden's recently announced decision to develop a curbside recycling program for the entire jurisdiction.

Since 1990, the county has had a recycling record that could be called spotty at best, experimenting with curbside pilot campaigns and relying too much on drop-off centers operated and staffed by weary volunteers. Maybe now the county will catch up with neighboring subdivisions -- namely Baltimore City and Anne Arundel, Carroll, Harford and Howard counties -- where curbside pick-up has already begun in earnest. The fact that the other jurisdictions have been up and running might have had as much as anything to do with bringing Mr. Hayden around from his previous reluctance to get his county up to speed.

As the Hayden administration irons out the logistics of servicing all of the jurisdiction's 200,000 homes by July 1995 (and its 70,000 apartments soon thereafter), county officials would do well to place as much emphasis on crafting a strong public education program.

Indeed, Mr. Hayden had hardly finished speaking to the county Chamber of Commerce last week before citizens were decrying his suggestion to reduce regular trash pick-up from twice to once a week, with the other day given over to alternating collections of containers, paper and yard waste.

Fears of this switch-over are overblown. Regular recyclers in any of the local jurisdictions, including Baltimore County, could testify that one trash pick-up a week is plenty when recyclables are gathered. No doubt some residents will also complain about having to sort and hold onto materials while waiting a week or two for the designated collection date. While this might pose|| TC minor inconvenience, it positively pales next to the costs and hassles associated with landfilling or incinerating the items.

Besides crafting a good education program, the county should be just as aggressive in looking for ways to "close the loop" -- to find markets for its recyclable materials, which aren't really recycled until they're obtained by manufacturers and made into new products. Whether the county works on its own or through the still-emerging solid waste strategy of the Baltimore Metropolitan Council, efforts must be made to seek out, encourage and create markets for the recyclables that will soon be saved in expanding numbers throughout Baltimore County. That's an approach that makes sense not just for the '90s but also for decades to come.

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