Maryland celebrated Earth Day on Wednesday at schools, malls, transit facilities - and landfills.
Baltimore County Executive James T. Smith Jr. began Earth Day posing for photos inside a recycling trailer that was partially filled with discarded electronics.
"It's so clean that I don't mind," he said Wednesday at the Eastern Sanitary Landfill in White Marsh.
With the collection of unwanted computers, TVs and VCRs at the Baltimore County Resource Recovery Facility in Cockeysville averaging about 100,000 pounds a month, officials are expanding the program to the county's other two drop-off waste facilities at White Marsh and Halethorpe.
"The more sites and the closer they are, the more likely people will be to recycle and not fill up the landfill," Smith said.
The Mall in Columbia is building on that theory. General Growth Properties, its owner, marked Earth Day with the distribution of 14 new recycling bins around the mall concourse. The bins will allow shoppers to pitch in with merchants who have recycled 87 tons during the first two months of this year, mall officials said.
"For recycling to take off, you've got to have recycling options everywhere you go," said Joshua Feldmark, Howard County's environmental director.
Maryland is also greening its transit system. Vice President Joe Biden visited a Maryland Transit Administration maintenance facility in Landover on Wednesday to announce that $300 million of the recently enacted economic stimulus package will be directed to help transit authorities and state and local governments expand their fleets of hybrid, electric and alternative-fuel vehicles.
"There is a political cliche that says we're trying to change the world," he said. "But in its most literal sense, that's exactly what our administration is trying to do, change the world."
The response to e-cycling in Baltimore County shows that residents are getting the message, officials said. Smith's photo-opportunity trailer, which can hold 6,000 pounds, will likely be filled by week's end and hauled away to CDM eCycling in Baltimore. CDM, which offers alternatives to disposal of obsolete electronics, reuses as many items as possible and dismantles others for parts.
"This way, there is virtually no waste at all," said Brian Ryerson, business development manager at CDM. "Still only about 20 percent of the electronics are captured. The rest are in landfills."
At Pinewood Elementary School in Timonium, the children showed how well they have learned their environmental lessons.
"If people don't recycle, the earth could get really sick," said second-grader Bryce Quinto.
The school marked Earth Day with numerous environmentally friendly projects. Kindergartener Madeline Cooper clutched a pine seedling that she was eager to plant at home. "It's a baby now, but water and sun will make it grow," she said.
Students planted trees, built birdhouses and made murals from the thousands of recycled bottle caps collected this year. They are working to cut lunch trash in half and many opt to walk or carpool to school. Those efforts won Pinewood Elementary the designation as a Maryland Green School, one of 47 in the county, which has the most in the state, officials said.
Baltimore Sun reporter Larry Carson contributed to this article.
* About 75 percent of all personal computers ever sold are now gathering dust as surplus electronics or e-waste.
* As of February, Baltimore County had e-cycled 3.2 million pounds of e-waste, including computers, TVs, VCRs, DVD players, cell phones and stereos.
* Baltimore County pays CDM eCycling $100 a ton - or 5 cents a pound --- to haul away the electronics.
Sources: The U.S. National Safety Council, Baltimore County government