Recycling bins for downtown

Public awareness: Test project in city may have difficulties, but could stimulate conservation ethic.

October 14, 2001

RECYCLING helps a community conserve resources, especially increasingly scarce landfill space. But recycling simply won't work without the full cooperation of a community and its government.

That was evident in Baltimore's decision earlier this year to cancel residential curbside recycling because of poor participation and taxpayer expense. It was also obvious in the subsequent reversal of that decision, based on redoubling the public commitment to the program.

Programs that don't effectively recycle paper, glass, plastic and metals waste resources and money instead of saving them. Public cooperation remains a key element in any recycling effort.

So it is understandable that Baltimore officials are reluctant to cover the downtown with public recycling bins, as cities such as Seattle and Oakland are doing.

The cost, the lack of public interest in the past, the universal problem of sorting recyclables from trash - these factors have to be considered and addressed. The advisability of putting out more closed containers in public places amid current security concerns is another serious question.

Still, a small pilot project in central Harborplace, for example, could be worthwhile in promoting public awareness and in judging the level of community response.

Combined with a dedicated information effort, this would complement the city campaign to crack down on littering and encourage wider use of trash cans. Maybe an outside grant could be found to help with start-up costs.

This effort would aim at a broader audience than those who live and work downtown. And the results just might encourage area businesses to initiate private cooperative recycling promotions.

Fear of failure should not be a factor.

If the test program doesn't succeed after an honest effort, that's another thing. But let's first give downtown visitors and workers a fighting chance to clean up the city and recycle waste.

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