Carroll County's belated reconsideration of require countywide recycling represents the realization that the towns alone can't carry the burden with their own recycling programs.
The commissioners' decision to draft legislation that would require county residents to recycle their trash is to be commended. Now, citizens must push the governing body to adopt such legislation, which would simply require separation of waste from recyclables for curbside collection.
The county commissioners decided against mandatory recycling last year. Meanwhile, Carroll's municipalities are recycling 24 percent of their residential trash -- a rate two or three times higher than the rest of the county. Carroll is close to meeting its state goal of 15 percent recycled trash by Jan. 1. But the biggest boost is obviously coming from the eight towns.
Outside the towns, voluntary curbside recycling is available. The county delayed mandatory collection to monitor the results of that effort.
The commissioners also proposed construction of a waste-to-energy incinerator that would reduce landfill needs, while giving Carroll an automatic 5 percent recycling credit toward its goal (as Harford County and Baltimore City now have.) However, with mounting community opposition to such a project and with the prediction that an incinerator would need "imported" trash for year-round operation, that idea may be rejected by a county study panel. That would necessitate a renewed effort toward true recycling programs, with teeth.
Town leaders complain that the county wants to reach the state goal by avoiding action, while saddling municipalities and their citizens with the cost and effort of recycling.
When the statewide program began, it was recognized that more compact urban areas would have a better chance to meet recycling goals than more dispersed rural areas. The lower goal for Maryland's smaller counties such as Carroll reflects that idea. So the fact that the towns would lead the way was to be expected.
Now, however, it's time for the rest of the county to get in step. Whether the incinerator ever becomes reality, mandatory recycling is a good program to reduce the excessive waste we so blithely toss out.