Recycling effort to target 2 small-business hubs

February 17, 1994|By Mark Guidera | Mark Guidera,Sun Staff Writer

If you're employed by a small business in Howard County, you may cringe at the stream of paper, cardboard, cans and bottles that wind up in the trash heap at work.

But take heart. Beginning today, an alternative to the trash can and landfill is coming to some small-business hubs, including retail centers and office parks throughout the county.

Recycling program coordinators, with the help of a county Chamber of Commerce committee, have picked two small-business hubs -- Kings Contrivance Village Center and Oakland Ridge Industrial Park -- as sites for collection trucks for recyclables. The county believes this will give small businesses a convenient way to recycle paper, glass, aluminum and plastic items, instead of tossing them in the trash bin.

Coordinators say the program is the first in the Baltimore region for small businesses. They hope to expand to about a dozen small-business sites in April.

"We're not looking to take away from the private haulers who have contracts with businesses to collect their recyclable trash. That's not the aim of this effort," said Ray Ehrlich, Howard County's recycling program coordinator for commercial waste.

Instead, he said, "The idea is to provide the small businesses . . . with an opportunity to easily recycle. Our big problem right now is we have more potential sites for doing this than we have time to accommodate."

Initial sites for the truck visits are:

* The Kings Contrivance Village Center, located off Route 32 in Columbia. A collection truck will be stationed there on Thursdays from 2:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. That program begins today.

* The Oakland Ridge Industrial Park, located just off Route 108 in Columbia. A collection truck will be stationed in Oakland Ridge, an area of about 200 offices and light industrial businesses, on Wednesdays between 12:30 p.m. and 2 p.m. That program begins Feb. 23.

In addition to the retail centers, program coordinators expect eventually to have four office/commercial hubs for the county's two collection trucks to visit.

But the program's success will depend in part on a recycling awareness program, said Tucker Davis, a member of the Howard Chamber of Commerce's Recycling Action Committee, which helped pick the sites.

"We're going to do everything we can to educate, inform and encourage the small to midsize businesses throughout the county to participate," said Mr. Davis, who is also property manager with the Manekin Corp., which manages several buildings in Oakland Ridge.

Large employers often have contracts with private hauling firms to pick up their recyclable waste, or generate such vast amounts that they can market to recyclers themselves.

Small businesses often are unable to follow the lead of large employers because many trash haulers will only pick up recyclable waste in bulk amounts. Taken together, however, small businesses generate much solid waste, most of it paper, that could be collected and sold to recyclers.

"We expect 89 percent of what we collect from the small-business sites to be paper. The rest will probably be bottles and cans," said Mr. Ehrlich.

The mobile recycling program will not stop county trucks from visiting established recycling sites near densely-populated residential areas, said Linda Fields, another recycling coordinator in the Department of Environmental Services.

The program also could help the county meet a state mandate to recycle at least 20 percent of its solid waste stream. That mandate kicked in last month. Last summer, about 18 percent of the solid waste in the county was being recycled, according to recycling program administrators.

Most of that recycled waste was being collected and turned in by residents. But about 15 percent of the solid waste produced by businesses in the county is sorted and recycled trash, administrators estimate.

They expect that percentage to rise after the small-business recycling program is in full swing.

"When you figure that the average office worker generates a half-pound of waste paper every day, you see there could be quite a lot of potential for this type of program," said Mr. Ehrlich.

He said recycling program coordinators plan a joint effort with the county Chamber of Commerce recycling committee to encourage small businesses to participate in the program.

"It's to their advantage to take part, because it will help keep the state from mandating recycling," noted Mr. Ehrlich.

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