Recycling drive targets apartments Owners' reluctance, 'hassle' for tenants limit participation

Goal is best Md. recycler

County came in fifth last year, dropping from fourth in 1995

November 23, 1997|By Laura Sullivan | Laura Sullivan,SUN STAFF

Vernon Burton is one of the few tenants in his Glen Burnie apartment complex who make the trip to a nearby convenience center once in a while to recycle his stash of glass containers and cans.

"Most people where I live just don't do it," he said on a recent day as he tossed glass bottles into a recycling bin. "Too lazy, I guess."

His neighbors and thousands of other renters across Anne Arundel County are about to become targets of the county's new initiative aimed at making Anne Arundel the best recycler in the ++ state. The county came in fifth last year, dropping from fourth in 1995.

The region comprising Queen Anne's, Kent and Talbot counties is tops, recycling 48 percent of its waste. Anne Arundel recycles 33 percent.

County officials say they are hoping to edge closer to first place by persuading the more than 40,000 apartment dwellers to recycle much of their waste.

In the past, apartment dwellers were largely ignored as the recycling coordinators focused on single-family houses. Now, with 70 percent of homeowners toting their yellow recycling bins to the curb almost every week, the county is gearing up programs and literature to include other types of housing.

The initiatives include educating residents and apartment complex owners with pamphlets and telephone solicitations.

"Apartments are a different kind of animal," said Beryl Friel, the county's recycling projects manager, "but we're trying to make residents more aware."

It won't be easy if current trends are any indication. Statistics are not available on how many renters recycle, but many complex owners have shunned recycling efforts, calling them expensive and cumbersome.

Costs of on-site programs can vary widely, depending on a complex's trash-hauling company, its location and the amount of trash, and often doesn't justify the expense, owners say. The recycling bins take up parking and building space, they say.

A few have tried recycling and given up. Greentree Apartments in Glen Burnie introduced recycling to residents several years ago, but its bins sit half full of regular trash.

"People here just don't want to take the time to put their recycling in the trash totes," said property manager Kathy Clark. like to see it work, but I don't think it's going to for the simple reason that people just don't want the inconvenience."

Those people are the ones the county wants to take on.

"For the customers that think it doesn't matter, what is it going to take?" Friel asked. "That's what we'd like to know."

Part of the problem, some residents say, is that even though the county provides four convenience centers and a mobile recycling site every Saturday, potential recyclers still need to load their used bottles, cans and newspapers into their vehicles and drive.

"Most people at my apartment complex don't have the time and don't want the hassle," said Joe Larkin of Glen Burnie as he unloaded newspapers into the recycling bin at a convenience center. "People always wonder why I have all these papers in my car."

The county's recycling rate is 3 percentage points ahead of the state average but far behind some California and Colorado municipalities that recycle up to 70 percent of their waste.

State officials are encouraging counties to try to recycle at least 35 percent of their waste, which Anne Arundel is trying to do.

"This county doesn't want to be stagnant," said James Pittman, deputy director of waste management services. "And we have another agenda, which is preserving the landfill. We don't have to be told by the state that it's ridiculous to put cans, bottles and newspapers into a multimillion-dollar landfill."

Some apartment complex owners -- and some homeowners -- shrug at the new recycling efforts, but the Millersville Landfill is expected to reach capacity by about 2060, a projection that could change depending on the success of the recycling push.

Some residents want to see more of a recycling effort in every part of county life.

"We go through tons of paper at work, but the county won't

come to businesses," said Dennis Whit-lock of Millersville as he recycled cardboard boxes. "I hope that's next."

Friel said that is on the list.

Pub Date: 11/23/97

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