Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz visited the Catonsville Library Thursday afternoon to announce that Baltimore County set a record for collecting material for recycling.
According to the county's new website, bcrecycles.com, that divides the county into 44 areas, the Catonsville/Oella area ranked second in the amount of curbside recycling materials in the county at 27.6 percent in 2012.
The only area with more is the Brooklandville/Ruxton area, which put out 29.9 percent of curbside recycling materials in 2012.
"I think to the people that live here, it's no surprise that we're one of the top ones in the county," said First District Councilman Tom Quirk, who represents the Catonsville area.
"This is a really caring community. It's a community that gets engaged," he said.
"One of the reasons we chose the Catonsville Library as the site for this celebration today with the county executive is that the Catonsville/Oella area has been consistently very high in its recycling rate and it's been improving," said Charles Reighart, the recycling and waste prevention manager for the Baltimore County Department of Public Works.
"In 2012, more than 52,500 tons of materials were collected from county residents from single-stream recycling," Kamenetz told a small crowd in the lobby of the library on Frederick Road. ""That is an all-time county record."
Kamenetz said the county saved $3 million in disposal costs as a result of last year's record-setting collection.
That number is up from the about 36,000 tons of recyclable material collection in 2009, according to the county, and more than 1,200 tons from 2011.
According to Kamenetz, the county pays $57 per ton for disposal of waste. The increased amount of recycling means less materials thrown in the trash, saving the county more than $3 million in disposal costs last year.
George Moniodis, a resident of the Woodbridge Valley community near North Rolling Road for 41 years, said that as soon as recycling was introduced to his area, it was a hit and has stayed that way every since.
"In my area, it took hold immediately," Moniodis said. "And as new people come into the community, they grasp it and they see what the neighbors are doing and they get it. It's a great program."
Single stream source of success
According to Reighart, the institution of single-stream recycling, which began in the county in 2010, is largely responsible for the huge increases in collection that the county has seen in recent years.
Single-stream recycling allows residents to put bottles, cans, paper and plastic in one container, rather than having to separate them into different containers, as was the previous practice.
"In general, we've seen an improvement in recycling throughout the county because of the introduction of single-stream recycling," Reighart said.
Reighart stressed that under the new single-stream recycling program, the number of recyclable materials has greatly increased as well. Plastic bottles and cans featuring the numbers one through seven are now recyclable, in addition to wide-mouth plastics such as butter or yogurt containers and rigid plastics such as drinking cups, buckets and old toys.
However, single-stream recycling does have some drawbacks.
"We debated this for several years, because, when you do single-stream you actually have a higher rate of contamination so it's not all usable," Kamenetz said.
Valerie Androutsopoulos, a Catonsville resident who owns a recycling company, Vangel Inc., is not a fan, however.
"The domestic recycling industry is having a terrible time with single-stream," Androutsopoulos said.
"It focuses largely on collection and not on what actually gets recycled," said Androutsopoulos, who also serves on the county's Commission for Environmental Quality.
She was at the event Thursday and, while she was excited about the numbers Baltimore County, and especially her hometown, has produced, she cautioned that much of the material collected during single-stream recycling is transported overseas. There, more state-of-the-art facilities are able to clean and process the more contaminated materials better, and the material is then sold back to the United States for reuse.
"We've had to double our trash service," Androutsopoulos said of her recycling company, which focuses exclusively on commercial recycling.
"People think that they do it at home, so why can't they do it at the office," she said of single-stream. "We have a huge increase in contamination."
Though Androutsopoulos does not personally support single-stream recycling, she said she sees the benefits that it provides for residents.
"It is much more convenient for residents. They have demonstrated an increase in participation. It may well be a case of, let's collect it all now, what gets recycled gets recycled and improved technology coming down the pike will enable them to recycle more," she said.
"I'm proud of the county. I think they've done a great job," Androutsopoulos said. "I'm certainly proud of Catonsville, the recycling capital of Baltimore County."