While Harford County already has strong participation in its recycling programs, officials are continuing their outreach efforts to get as many residents and businesses to recycle as possible, in order to reduce the amount of waste sitting in landfills and reuse products such as glass, aluminum, plastic, paper and more.
Erin Ferriter, the county's sustainability coordinator, and Jessica Green, recycling program coordinator, spoke to the members of the Darlington/Dublin Community Council Wednesday, during their monthly meeting held in the Conowingo Visitors Center.
Green said the county is working to get "our residents, our community to think about the trash they're creating where it's going . . . it doesn't just go away after they throw it away."
The Harford County 2011 Recycling Review, posted on the Department of Public Works-Environmental Services website, states the county had a 55 percent recycling rate that year.
The county has offered curbside recycling since 1992, and "has consistently been the leader in the State with one of the highest total waste diversion rates," according to the report.
Residents can bring a variety of recyclable materials to the Harford Waste Disposal Center in Street, including yard trimmings -- and pick up to 30 gallons of mulch and compost for free; any more costs $10 per cubic yard – Christmas trees, scrap metal and appliances, electronics, clothing and other textiles, tires, batteries, used fuel and fuel containers, plus empty pesticide containers, also according to the report.
Green told community council members the county provides "single-stream recycling," which allows participants to put all materials together in one container.
"I try to go out there and let people know that every little bit counts," she said.
Jane Howe, secretary for the council, said organizers of community events in the Darlington area have "been trying our darndest" to obtain recycling receptacles for events such as the Darlington Apple Festival, held in October.
Howe said she had purchased several portable receptacles, to which plastic bags can be attached, and Green noted her office had applied for a grant to purchase about 60 such receptacles for the public.
"That would be available for any community organization looking to have recycling at their event," Green said.
She told council members she expects to hear about the grant in April.
Green noted the county does not pick up curbside recycling left by Harford residents – that is the job of private trash collection companies that contract with individual homeowners. She encouraged residents who have any issues with the haulers to contact the companies.
The county does provide a sticker which residents can place on their designated recycling containers, according to one of many brochures Ferriter and Green brought to Wednesday's meeting – they also brought pencils made from recycled newspaper pages.
Green also said recycling participants do not have to compress any materials, since they are compacted when brought to an out-of-county recycling center.
"We want to try to make it as easy and as quick as possible, so more people are willing to do it," she said.
More information on recycling is available by calling 410-638-3417, visiting http://www.harfordcountymd.gov, or visiting the Harford County Office of Recycling page on Facebook.
Recycling is far from the only way in which Harford County is going green. Darlington Community Council Chairman Richard Norling, who also sits on Harford Community College's Board of Trustees, said college officials plan to install solar panels on several buildings around campus.
Ferriter said officials with the Sustainability Office have worked since the agency was created in May 2011 as a unit of the county's Department of Administration to ensure the county practices what it preaches regarding energy efficiency and conservation.
Sustainability staffers have worked with their counterparts in other departments to conserve energy in county buildings by measuring the facilities' energy usage and then making "low-cost changes" such as installing programmable thermostats, replacing some light switches with motion sensors that turn lights on and off when a person enters and then leaves a room, and replacing traditional light bulbs with energy-efficient bulbs.
Ferriter said the county has been able to save $453,000 in energy costs in nearly two years using such measures.
"What it really boils down to is making responsible decisions with limited funding," she said.
Ferriter also mentioned the "cool roof" which was installed at Ring Factory Elementary School in Bel Air in 2010 in place of the school's aging asphalt shingle roof.
The so-called cool roof reflects heat away from the building and cuts down on the need to crank up the air conditioner, according to Energy.gov, the U.S. Department of Energy's website.
The county used part of a $2.1 million federal Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant to fund the roof.
"It's one step at a time," Ferriter said.
One effort by Harford County to be more environmentally friendly has not been well received by the public, however.
Members of the Harford County Council spent several hours Tuesday evening debating, and hearing opinions from residents, about a proposed $125 stormwater fee, which the state is requiring Harford and other Maryland counties to charge their residents.
The fee is designed to raise local revenue for stormwater management projects to keep runoff pollution out of the Chesapeake Bay.
Darlington/Dublin council member J. Alan Thompson encouraged local residents to get in touch with county council members.
"Let your councilman know your thoughts, because they're struggling with it," he said.