The confusion over recycling progress, as counties push t meet state goals by Jan. 1, continues to confound a well-intentioned public. Are Marylanders laggards in turning in recyclables, or are they doing their best under the circumstances?
Take the situation in the city of Annapolis, where curbside recycling collections began nearly three years ago. The city can honestly boast that its recycling rate is a respectable 20 percent.
But that is only for the 8,400 city homes with municipal trash pickup; if the 5,000 multiple-family dwellings without the service are included, the estimated rate drops to a dismal 7 1/2 percent. And there is no substantial recycling by businesses.
The Annapolis rates are figured by taking the average amount of city trash dumped in the municipal landfill in 1990 and comparing it with the tonnage collected today, program director Frank Biba explained. But figures used in state recycling calculations take a national average of a household's waste and multiply it by the number of homes in a county. The result: different numbers.
Annapolis can't very well recalculate a new base, either, because of the changes in waste disposal patterns. Since December, private trash haulers have been unable to use the city landfill, which is under orders to close this year.
The city has bi-weekly curbside pickup of glass, tin and aluminum refuse, and of yard wastes for composting. Newspapers can be dropped off at the Spa Road center, or at mobile units that set up weekly in supermarket parking lots. New ordinances are proposed to require businesses and apartment houses to have recycling plans, and to begin plastic and newspaper curbside pickup.
Elsewhere in Anne Arundel, the government recently extended recycling collections to all the homes that have county trash service, and plans to add a composting program. This should push the county closer to the state goal, after it registered a disappointing 13 percent rate last December.
In Carroll County, by comparison, the towns complain that they are bearing the major burden for the county's recycling program, recycling three times as much as their rural neighbors. That is not the case in Anne Arundel, where Annapolis and the county are both making strong efforts to reach the 20 percent goal.