Recycling still below state goal

April 14, 1993|By Greg Tasker | Greg Tasker,Staff Writer

Carroll's recycling rate climbed above 17 percent in March, but county officials warned that curbside recycling could become mandatory this year unless efforts improve.

"We're going to have to watch statistics very closely," Comptroller Eugene C. Curfman told the commissioners yesterday. "If we're not meeting [the state goal] then we have some smart decisions to make."

On average, Carroll has recycled just below 14 percent of its trash during the past nine months. That figure is 1 percent below a state mandate requiring Carroll to recycle 15 percent of its trash, beginning in fiscal 1994.

To meet that goal, the commissioners last summer initiated a voluntary curbside recycling program in the county's unincorporated areas. Trash haulers doing business in the county must provide curbside pickup for recyclables. Residents, however, are not required to participate.

"It's quite possible we may have to make recycling mandatory," Commissioner Elmer C. Lippy said. "We've kept that as a stick -- reserved on hold in our hip pocket. And we may have to use it. If there is a large enough segment we are not reaching, we may have to go to mandatory recycling. That's not out of the realm of possibility."

Carroll's monthly recycling rate has ranged from about 9 percent to 15 percent since the program began, county officials said. The most recent figure -- a county high -- doesn't include Sykesville or some commercial efforts, Mr. Curfman said.

"I think we're progressing," Mr. Lippy said. "I would be more satisfied with a 50 percent recycling rate. I think if we could get more commercial recycling going, our rate would zoom up and we could achieve our goals."

Robert A. "Max" Bair, executive assistant and director of administrative services, said the board should review recycling rates no later than the end of the first quarter of fiscal 1994 to determine whether recycling should become mandatory.

"We'll be keeping a close eye on what's happening so we know where to go," Mr. Curfman said. "We can't wait five or six months and not meet the 15 percent goal and then turn around and expect to."

Several towns, which banded together for recycling and trash service, are faring slightly better with recycling.

March figures show Westminster's recycling rate at 23 percent; Taneytown, 20 percent; Hampstead, 20 percent; Union Bridge, 17 percent; and New Windsor, 20 percent.

"These figures show a slight reduction from previous ones," said Westminster Mayor W. Benjamin Brown. "There was an error in the way [the trash hauler] was figuring the recycling rate. The numbers they gave were 5 percent or 6 percent higher."

In Mount Airy, where mandatory curbside recycling began last July, the recycling rate is hovering near 40 percent.

"It hasn't been easy and we have a ways to go," Councilman Billy Wagner said. "With the county's tipping fee getting ready to jump, recycling becomes all the more necessary."

Commissioners are considering raising the landfill fee by $13 a ton to help with landfill operating and capital costs. The tipping fee is now $40 per ton.

"It's more important now than ever to recycle, not only for the environment but also for the tax dollar," Mr. Wagner said. "[Our costs] associated with the tipping fee increase don't look good. We don't want to raise taxes, and with citizen cooperation we won't have to."

Both county and town officials are hopeful that when the county begins composting yard waste and diverting it from landfills later this year, recycling rates will rise.

"I do believe once we get started on [composting], recycling is going to skyrocket," Mr. Lippy said. "I don't think we're going to have any trouble making that 15 percent."

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