As state environmental officials roll out a "zero waste" plan — designed to reduce, reuse and recycle nearly all the waste produced by 2040 — proposals are being made to drastically change Marylanders' habits. They range from efforts to curb consumption to a "pay-as-you-throw" trash collection system.
Environmental advocates say making people pay for the quantity of trash they throw away would significantly boost recycling. Under systems in place in other communities, households pay by the bag, by the can or by weight for what they put out for collection — with recyclables picked up for free.
Pay-as-you-throw is common in New England, according to David Costello, deputy secretary of the Maryland Department of the Environment. But in Maryland — where residents generate more than 12 million tons of trash and waste annually — only a few communities have tried it.
The city of Aberdeen in Harford County has been doing it for 12 years now, requiring households to buy 50-cent or $1 stickers for every trash bag or can they want picked up.
The amount of trash collected dropped by nearly a quarter and recyclables jumped by two-thirds when the sticker program started, according to Jim Litke, who oversaw the program until his retirement several years ago.
Despite the town's growth, the volume of trash collected today is still below what it was before the effort began, according to city manager Doug Miller.
The idea is turning at least a few heads, Costello said. College Park in Prince George's County and Brunswick in Frederick County are looking to start similar efforts.
Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake has also proposed shifting Baltimore to "pay-as-you-throw" trash collection.
City public works spokesman Kurt Kocher said, "It is not planned at this time."