If Baltimore County is going to reach its goal of recycling 50 percent of residential waste, it must persuade folks in Randallstown and Reisterstown to get serious about placing used plastic and glass bottles and aluminum cans in a separate bin for weekly pickup.
Right now these communities aren't heavy participants in recycling efforts. The rate for Randallstown and Reisterstown was just 6.3 percent in 2012 and 7.5 percent this January.
Compare that to Pikesville and Garrison (19.6 percent), Mays Chapel (25.5 percent), Rodgers Forge (30.5 percent) or Brooklandville and Ruxton (33.3 percent).
Countywide, recycling efforts accounted for 16 percent of total residential material collected last year.
This comes at a time when Baltimore City Del. Maggie McIntosh, who chairs the House of Delegate's environment committee, is pushing a bill to impose on consumers a refundable five-cent deposit on bottles and cans to spur more recycling. Cosponsoring this "Container Recycling Incentive Program" are Del. Dan Morhaim of Owings Mills and Del. John Olszewski, Jr. of Dundalk.
Another bill, cosponsored by Del. Steve Lafferty of Towson, would place bars and restaurants in the beverage container recycling program as well.
Ten states with deposit laws have twice the recycling rate on beverage containers as Maryland. Yet this bill would only increase Maryland's overall recycling by one percent. The residential pickup program offers far more potential.
Heightened attention to recycling by the Kamenetz administration has started to improve Baltimore County's rates. In January, recycling pickups reached 23.2 percent of total waste from 320,000 single-family homes, townhouses, apartments and condos in the program. That equates to 144 tons of trash recycled in January.
Recycling isn't just an idealistic "do-gooder crusade." It's a money-saver for Baltimore County. Nearly $3 million in taxpayer disposal costs were avoided last year because of the 52,300 tons of recycled trash. Indeed, for every extra ton of recycled material the county avoids $57 in extra costs.
Besides, it's environmentally smart. Every 2,000 pounds of recycled steel saves finite resources: 2,500 pounds of iron ore, 1,400 pounds of coal and 120 pounds of limestone. Every recycled aluminum can saves enough energy to run a TV set or computer for three hours.
Baltimore County created its first recycling drop-off center in 1990. Then in 2010 single-stream residential recycling began.
You can set out all recyclables in the same container for weekly pickup by the county's private trash haulers.
It's clear why this is important. The county's only active landfill is half-full. Every bottle or can diverted from the landfill extends its life. Finding a new site in a densely populated county of 800,000 is exceedingly difficult - and politically unpopular.
Last weekend, lots of us dressed in green to celebrate St. Patrick's Day. But everyone can display a love of the "green" each week of the year by enhancing their household recycling.
Barry Rascovar is a political columnist and a writer/consultant on communications issues. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.