Editorial: Two years in, single-stream recycling looks like a success

Last week marked an anniversary worth noting. It was on Feb. 1, 2010, that Baltimore County made the switch to single-stream recycling.

Two years in, single-stream looks like a success story.

"It's just gotten better and better," said Charles Reighart, county recycling coordinator.

Once upon a time, people sorted various kinds of recycled materials into separate bins. Participation in recycling, however, was low — people who otherwise might be inclined to recycle didn't like the bother of sorting.

Enter single stream — everything goes into one bin — and the county has seen a notable increase in collections. In pre-single-stream 2009, about 36,100 tons were collected. After single stream, collections went to 47,100 and 51,300 tons in 2010 and 2011, respectively.

Of course, this means the bin contents, after pickup, must go through a sorting process, much of it at a facility in Elkridge operated byWaste Management Inc.

Even so, because single stream saves landfill space and keeps recyclables out of regular trash, thereby reducing dumping costs, the county is actually saving money. In fact, comparing 2011 with 2009, the county estimates it has saved about $850,000 in disposal costs.

Its success now proven, the county hopes to build on that.

Plans call for upgrading a county-owned recycling facility in Cockeysville to accept single stream after the County Council authorized $13 million in financing for the improvements.

The county estimates that it could make $200,000 a month in revenue from keeping the recycling to itself.

There's even talk of developing a way to recycle food scraps.

So, consider this encouragement for county residents to keep putting out that bin filled with paper, metal, glass and plastic.

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