Expansion of recycling program for small businesses suspended

April 12, 1994|By Mark Guidera | Mark Guidera,Sun Staff Writer

Howard County has delayed indefinitely the expansion of an experimental program aimed at enticing small businesses to recycle office waste, citing a lack of participation.

Ray Ehrlich, Howard County's recycling coordinator for commercial waste, whose office had planned to expand the small-business recycling effort this month, said the small-business program "so far . . . hasn't panned out."

That apparent lack of enthusiasm by small businesses comes at a time when commercial recycling generally is on the increase, according to recent county statistics.

The experimental small business program was launched in February at two commercial sites: the Kings Contrivance Village Center, in Columbia, and the Oakland Ridge Industrial Park, an office and light industry hub just off Route 108 in Columbia.

County collection trucks visit each site for several hours one day a week so that small businesses could drop off recyclables generated at work.

The trucks will continue to visit the sites. Meanwhile, program coordinators will analyze the program and launch a promotion effort.

The program was established to give small businesses an avenue and incentive to recycle waste generated at work sites.

Since many small businesses generate small amounts of recyclable trash, they often have difficulty hiring hauling firms to pick up and sell their waste office paper, cardboard, glass, plastics and aluminum.

Large businesses, by contrast, generally produce enough recyclable trash to make it worthwhile for a hauler to pick them up for market. Some very large employers in the county, including Giant Food Inc.'s distribution center in Laurel, market their own recyclables.

County recycling program coordinators say the poor turnout at the two small-business sites may be due to a lack of storage areas where small businesses can hold recyclables until collection day, and to a lack of awareness about the program.

"We won't expand the program until we've had a little more time to promote it and analyze it," said Mr. Ehrlich.

Other sites that had been under consideration for collection truck visits included the Gateway and Rivers office-industrial parks in Columbia, employment areas for about 500 workers.

Also, the county has been trying to interest the retail hubs of Columbia's other village centers in allowing outdoor bins for collecting recyclables.

Meanwhile, county recycling program administrators have determined that more businesses than expected are sorting such recyclable material as tires, road shingles and cardboard from the waste they generate.

The county estimates that in the last six months of 1993, a total of 31 percent of the solid waste generated by businesses in the county was being recycled.

That was up from 15.4 percent of the commercial waste that was being recycled in the first six months of last year, the county estimated.

The increase was in due, in part, to a more accurate accounting by the county of commercial recycling efforts already under way, and to increased awareness about recycling by the business sector, said Mr. Ehrlich.

"We knew our effort to determine what businesses were recycling would show us a lot more than we initially knew about, but we didn't expect it to be quite as many as we found," said Mr. Ehrlich.

The big increase helped the county show the state that it was recycling more solid waste than mandated by law.

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