Recycling Rangers to the rescue

December 23, 1993

Assuming you can stand yet another take-off on the famous line from "Field of Dreams" ("If you build it, he will come"), we offer this variation:

If you make it convenient, they will recycle.

Bearing out this assertion are statistics showing that 60 percent of Howard County house-dwellers recycle trash, while only 20 percent of countians living in apartments and condos recycle. That broad difference is probably explained by the fact that curbside pickup of recyclables is available to house-dwellers but not to residents of apartment complexes. Also, people who live in town houses and detached houses generally have more room to store recyclables than do their counterparts in apartments.

The county hopes to offer pickup at apartments and condos next year. In the meantime, however, some Columbia-area renters can avoid trashing their leftover Christmas wrap this year, thanks to a dozen students from Talbott Springs and Phelps Luck elementary schools. This week, the students visited local apartment complexes and distributed some 200 large paper bags in which residents can place used gift wrap. The youngsters also passed out fliers urging the residents to fill the bags, which were donated by S3 Technologies of Columbia and Sewell's Ace Hardware and Home Center in Ellicott City. County workers will pick up the wrap recycling bags Jan. 2.

The effort is conducted through the school system's Type III enrichment program for independent research projects and the government's new "Recycling Rangers" campaign encouraging students to get involved in recycling.

Through this experience, the students should develop not only greater dedication to the necessity of recycling but also a deeper understanding of it. For instance, they are learning paper is more of a threat to landfill space than plastic, which gets a bum rap despite accounting for a small percentage of the material in dumps. Paper products, on the other hand, are responsible for 40 percent of the waste at the Alpha Ridge Landfill in Marriottsville. That's not atypical.

Thus the push to help area apartment-dwellers recycle paper this holiday season. Although this commendable student project won't have much of an immediate impact, its effects could be felt for years if it instills in these youngsters the wisdom of reusing what once would have been thrown away.

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