Howard Co. trash crackdown shows early signs of success In the first four months, 13% less waste collected

November 21, 1996|By Craig Timberg | Craig Timberg,SUN STAFF

Howard County's strict new trash policy -- the toughest of any county in the Baltimore area -- is showing early signs of getting residents to recycle more and throw away less.

In the four full months since the new policy took effect in July, the amount of trash collected by the county decreased by 13 percent compared with a year ago, while total recyclables -- glass, bottles, paper and yard waste -- increased by 45 percent.

County officials caution that data from just a few months can be misleading, particularly for a period when publicity about the program was strong and Howard's yard-waste recycling program expanded dramatically. But they also have begun claiming success.

"It's very encouraging," said County Executive Charles I. Ecker, who made the trash policy one of his administration's top priorities. "I think it does mean that the program is working."

The new policy -- which was accompanied by a new annual trash fee of $125 per house -- allows residents to put out only four bags or cans for collection each week.

The new limit is the lowest of any county in the Baltimore area and half of Howard's old limit of eight bags or cans.

Some county residents appear to have learned the "Seattle stomp," invented when residents of that city complied with a similar policy by stuffing each trash can.

In April, a county survey showed that the average family put out 3.6 bags or cans a week. This month, a new survey put that number at 2.2 bags or cans. The nearly 40 percent drop is far greater than the decrease of trash volume in that period.

"They're just smooshing things together," said Linda Fields, head of the county's recycling office.

One measure of Ecker's program is the reactions of such residents as Dan Goettel of Columbia's Wilde Lake village, who complained about the fee and the four-can limit in June.

But after the program took effect, Goettel said, he pulled his recycling bin out of his garage -- where he had used it for storage -- and started recycling newspapers, cans and bottles.

"I found myself putting stuff in the bin where I hadn't before," Goettel said. "It's an inconvenience, but it's actually for a good type of cause."

The volume of many of the most common recyclables -- glass, cans and bottles -- has grown little under the new program.

But more than making up for that, recycling of paper reached a county record in October -- with 1,547 tons recycled -- besting the old record of December 1994 by nearly 10 percent.

Yard-waste recycling, made available and mandatory in most of the county this spring, doubled compared with a year ago.

Pub Date: 11/21/96

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.