End of Voluntary Recycling?

December 30, 1993

Unattended bins where people can drop off recyclable trash can work, but such voluntary systems are not without problems, as officials in the town of Hampstead are discovering. The recycling bins, unfortunately, are becoming repositories for more than just recyclables and the mess around them is annoying residents.

Hampstead is not unique in Carroll County (or elsewhere) in having problems with voluntary trash disposal. Mount Airy's effort to create a community compost pile to handle yard waste in Prospect Park became a smelly eyesore after people began tossing bags of trash, old furniture and other refuse into the pile. What had been intended as a source of free mulch for Mount Airy's residents instead became an open-air dump.

Not only do the drop-off sites become unsightly, but the recyclables become contaminated. Phoenix Recycling, which handles Carroll's bins, has notified the commissioners that if it continues to receive contaminated collections, the company will begin imposing a surcharge on the county. Should the charge be imposed, the county is prepared to do away with the red recycling bins.

Recycling receptacles have already been removed in Eldersburg because of dumping problems. To forestall that in Hampstead, Mayor C. Clinton Becker is having the site monitored more carefully by police and maintenance workers.

We certainly hope that Hampstead is successful in curbing the dumping and contamination problems, although we are not too sanguine that its efforts will work. It is obvious that people who have cavalierly dumped trash in these bins have no concern for the recycling program or the difficulty their laziness causes. Unless those bins are monitored continuously, these thoughtless folks will ruin the voluntary recycling program for the rest of the community.

If the Hampstead bins are ultimately removed with others, Carroll will be forced to adopt a mandatory recycling program. The county is barely meeting the state requirement for recycling waste as it is. Reducing the number of drop-off stations where people can leave recyclables will make meeting the goal that much more difficult. The county's top elected officials have opposed mandatory recycling as an unnecessary intrusion, but they may have to change their thinking if the recycling drops continue to be used as dumping grounds.

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