Baltimore recycling program in flux

17 more neighborhoods to be permitted to leave materials behind homes

Width of alleys is key factor

March 04, 2002|By Jamie Stiehm | Jamie Stiehm,SUN STAFF

After new recycling procedures led to protests last month, Baltimore officials are returning to a system of picking up paper, plastic, glass and cans in the rear of houses in more than a dozen city neighborhoods.

The about-face, announced Friday, will expand to 21 the number of neighborhoods receiving recycling collection services behind their homes. The changes in the neighborhoods will occur this month, officials said.

In January, the city switched to a system of curbside-only collection in its residential recycling program, which quickly set off a flurry of letters and calls to city officials from unhappy residents. In the past, about 65 percent of city residents placed their items in alleys behind their homes.

Last month, city officials agreed to make exceptions and allow rear-alley collections in four areas: Homeland, Tuscany-Canterbury, Original Northwood and the Penway-Braddish Avenue neighborhood in Walbrook.

In other parts of the city, the exemption of some neighborhoods set off a torrent of calls and questions about whether other areas had been unfairly excluded. That, officials said, led the Department of Public Works to assess which city alleys were wide enough to accommodate its trucks.

"We have evaluated these requests, and these are the decisions," said Matthew D. Gallagher, director of operations for CitiStat, a program that measures results of city agencies. "These are alleyways accessible to city trucks, without jeopardizing efficiency. It was not who complained the most."

Neighborhoods now slated to receive rear-alley collection of recyclable items are Mount Washington, Roland Park, Wyndhurst, Keswick, West Arlington, West Hills, Hunting Ridge, Rognel Heights, Charles Village, Bolton Hill, Bellona-Gittings, Rosebank, Cedarcroft, Lake Walker, Belair-Edison and Chinquapin-Belvedere, Gallagher said.

City Councilman Kenneth N. Harris Sr., a Northeast Baltimore Democrat who has fielded constituent calls and lobbied Mayor Martin O'Malley for a change, said the expansion did not go far enough to achieve fairness. He advocates returning to the old system, and if necessary, widening the city's alleys to accommodate DPW trucks.

"The perception is the haves [versus] the have nots," Harris said. "The administration needs to be clear about what the guidelines are. Everybody should have rear [recycling] collections."

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