Wrapping paper, milk jugs, cardboard boxes and other recyclables are piling up in some Baltimore County homes.
About 82,000 county households — those whose recycling is collected on Mondays — are dealing with a three-week wait for pickup service because of Christmas and New Year off-days. The county, which contracts with private haulers for trash and recycling, doesn't offer make-up days for recyclable collections.
About a quarter of households throughout the county have Monday recycling pickup service, according to figures provided by county officials. This winter, the holidays were both observed on Mondays.
Last week, Reisterstown resident Jennifer Kordonski filled the entire trunk of her Subaru Outback with recyclable items and drove to a drop-off center in Cockeysville. She had egg cartons, junk mail, cans and cardboard boxes. Then there was the wrapping paper from Christmas and Hanukkah, plus the plastic cups and food trays from a party she hosted.
"We had a lot of stuff because we celebrate both holidays, and because I recycle everything," she said.
Like others with Monday pickup, she last had recycling service Dec. 19, and won't have it again until Jan. 9.
A frustrated Kordonski recently called the county's bureau of solid waste management to ask about the situation.
"The woman said that recycling is not as important as trash because it won't bring rats and mice, and it won't smell," she said.
In an email sent to residents who asked about the wait via email, county officials said that 47 private companies provide pickup services.
"These collectors only have six (well-deserved) collection holidays per year," the email says. "Unfortunately, there isn't enough time in the remaining four days of a holiday week to make up both skipped trash and recycling collections. 'Make-up' trash collections take priority for sanitary reasons."
Don Mohler, chief of staff to County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, said he believes county residents have been patient during the wait.
"I think that people understand that even our haulers deserve a holiday every once in a while," Mohler said.
According to the email, county statistics show that most people hang on to their recyclables until the following pickup when there is a skipped collection.
But the weeks-long wait has led some county residents to chuck the recyclables with the trash.
At Stephanie and David Damsgaard's home in the Jacksonville area, the piles of cardboard boxes from Christmas presents became unmanageable.
"It's piling up, and some of it we just threw away because we just had no room," said Stephanie Damsgaard, who has two sons. "It was overtaking the garage."
Another resident in the Damsgaards' neighborhood, Tom Anderson, said he's also likely to mix the recycling with his regular trash. He had tons of cardboard, plus beer and soda bottles from holiday gatherings.
"The garage is just cluttered, especially with the cardboard after Christmas," said Anderson, who usually recycles. "I'm very much for the environment and doing what's right, but it also has to be convenient."
Christmas in 2012 and New Year's Day in 2013 fall on Tuesdays.
"Every year, somebody's going to have this problem," Kordonski said.
Residents who don't want to wait for their recycling service can take their recyclables to one of three county drop-off centers, located in Cockeysville, Halethorpe, and White Marsh. The centers will be open between Tuesday and Saturday.