Harford environmental officials last week gave the County Council a glowing progress report on recycling efforts in the county, including evidence that the county has exceeded state minimum requirements.
Robert Ernst, recycling coordinator, told council members that the county recycled an average 25.36 percent of its waste in 1994. That is 5 percent more than the state requires.
The Maryland Recycling Act of 1988 ordered each county with a population of more than 150,000 to develop a plan to reduce its solid waste stream by 20 percent through recycling by the start of last year.
Harford, which began its countywide blue-bag program in June 1992, has made consistent progress over the past 2 1/2 years, Mr. Ernst said. He said the county recycled 1,250 tons of blue bags in December 1994, more than double the 600 tons collected from curbside in the first month of the program.
"There has been a steady increase in the tonnage and the rates over time," he said.
During the first seven months of the program, 14.9 percent of county trash was recycled. By the first half of 1993, it was 22.6 percent.
In addition, the county receives a 5 percent credit toward the state mandate for operating its waste-to-energy facility in Magnolia, where trash is incinerated before it is buried at the Scarboro landfill. Counting that credit, Mr. Ernst said, the county reached a 30 percent rate.
Officials also announced plans beginning in April to go to a "split collection," picking up recyclable paper one week and mixed glass, plastic, aluminum and metal the next.
Becky Joesting-Hahn, assistant recycling coordinator, said collecting paper separately will reduce the amount of contaminated materials returned to the county by recyclers as unacceptable. Currently, all recycled materials from the county are sent to Browning-Ferris Industries recycling plant in Elkridge, where they are separated and processed.
She said 17 percent of the recycled trash is returned to the county as "residue" because it has been contaminated by being collected in the same truck. "We're thinking that with the new collection schedule, the residue rate should drop to about 8 percent," she said.
Mixed paper, including junk mail, letters, paperboard boxes and wrapping paper, will be added to the list of acceptable paper for blue-bag collection in April, when all paper will be processed by the Owl Corp. of Baltimore.
"We estimate the average family will be able to recycle an additional 4 pounds of paper a week with this new method," Mr. Ernst said.
Ms. Joesting-Hahn said that the county will mount a direct-mail campaign in early spring to educate residents about the new alternating pickup schedule. She said all three trash haulers in the county have agreed to the plan and have been asked to include a flier about the changes in their bills.