Recycling policy exceptions protested

4 city neighborhoods may put items behind, not in front of, homes

February 22, 2002|By Caitlin Francke | Caitlin Francke,SUN STAFF

Under intense pressure from residents, Baltimore's Department of Public Works has modified its new recycling collection policy for a handful of neighborhoods -- prompting cries of unfairness.

As of this week, residents of three North Baltimore communities, as well as a portion of the Walbrook area on the west side, can put their recyclable items in alleys behind their homes, instead of placing them in front of their houses as the new policy mandates.

DPW officials say these communities complained about the new policy and that after reviewing the areas, DPW officials decided they have alleys wide enough to accommodate trucks.

But City Council members point out that the majority of the spared communities -- Homeland, Tuscany-Canterbury and Original Northwood -- are well-off and politically powerful. They say it smacks of unfairness to let the well-to-do hide their trash in back alleys while everyone else has to place items in front of their houses, making streets look messy.

"The message the administration is sending is, if you have money you have a voice," said Councilman Nicholas C. D'Adamo Jr., a Southeast Baltimore Democrat.

Councilman Bernard C. "Jack" Young, an East Baltimore Democrat, said the city is unhappy with the recycling program because it lines the streets with trash.

"The city, with its new recycling policy, is beginning to look like a wasteland," he said. "They need to go back to the old way [of collecting recyclable items], and that way all communities would feel they are being treated fairly and not one is being treated differently than another."

Kurt L. Kocher, spokesman for DPW, said that communities unhappy with the new policy are being reviewed on a case-by-case basis. For rear pickup, the alleys must be wide enough to accommodate a 9 1/2 -foot-wide truck.

"This has nothing to do with what you're calling upscale communities," Kocher said. "This has only to do with the size of the alleys, and accommodations are being made on a case-by-case basis where the alleys are large enough to accommodate the trucks."

Kocher said other communities might see change.

"These [four areas] are the communities that have approached us. It doesn't mean they are going to be the only ones," Kocher said. "In some communities, we'll be able to make adjustments and in others we won't."

The new program, begun Jan. 28, is designed to streamline recycling and thereby give workers more time to target illegal dumping sites and to clean alleys. Recyclable items are easier to retrieve from the fronts of homes.

But problems arose from the start when the DPW was late in distributing the new schedules to about 50,000 households.

The changed pickup location has proved the most contentious part of the program. About 65 percent of residents used to place their items in alleys behind their homes.

The four communities granted exceptions have about 3,000 households.

Councilwoman Lois A. Garey, a Southeast Baltimore Democrat, said the DPW's decision to allow some communities to revert to the former recycling system likely will touch off a furor.

"Phones are going to ring pretty good," said Garey. "I think people are going to say, `Why is that being done there and not here?' and what am I going to say -- `You have got the wrong size alley'"?

She added: "It probably is the size of the alley [that matters], but I don't think it will be perceived that way."

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