On the right recycling track

May 25, 1993

Anne Arundel and Howard counties are doing a better job of recycling than the numbers might indicate. In an update on the state's new mandatory recycling law, officials recently pinpointed these as two of only six counties -- and the only two in the Baltimore area -- not already meeting the 20 percent recycling requirement.

Statistics for the last six months of 1992 showed Anne Arundel recycling only 13 percent of its garbage and Howard 12 percent. If they don't improve by Jan. 1, 1994, when the law takes full effect, state officials solemnly warned, they could face a state-imposed building moratorium.

What are Anne Arundel and Howard doing wrong? Actually, nothing.

Bear in mind that Baltimore City and Harford and Baltimore counties each receive a 5 percent "credit" for using incinerators.

Not to be diminished is the fact that Anne Arundel and Howard were among the first Maryland counties to start curbside recycling and are now expanding recycling and composting operations. Their fiscal 1994 budgets include money for new composting programs, which will greatly increase their recycling percentages.

Howard's budget includes funds to expand curbside recycling to all 58,000 residents who receive county trash pickup, as well as to the county's 17,000 apartments. And Anne Arundel is, in fact, a few steps ahead of Howard. It has already extended curbside recycling to all 116,000 homes that receive county trash service -- which is not reflected in the 13 percent figure. Now the utilities department is preparing a wholesale recycling education campaign (Did you know the county will pick up old refrigerators and other appliances for recycling?) and targeting businesses. This is an area where much work remains to be done; relatively few businesses in either Anne Arundel or Howard are cooperating with recycling efforts.

The trash crisis is reaching the point where neither businesses nor residents are going to have a choice in the matter. Mandatory recycling laws and programs to charge per-bag or per-pound waste collection fees are being initiated elsewhere; it's just a matter of time before we see them here. Indeed, an Anne Arundel task force recommended such legislation a year ago.

Anne Arundel and Howard may not be ready for such progressive change. But they deserve credit for what they've already done to meet this critical environmental challenge.

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