Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke asked Baltimore's City Council yesterday to pass a package of environmental bills, including one that would impose mandatory recycling if voluntary efforts failed to meet minimum targets established by state law.
"This package of legislative initiatives and incentives will encourage Baltimoreans and city employees to develop a direct role in cleaning and preserving our environment," Mr. Schmoke said. "We think the local government has an important role to play."
The mayor said his environmental proposals would encourage people to place a higher value on clean air and water.
The major bill in the package of legislative proposals and administrative changes would allow the Department of Public Works to order mandatory recycling and to require the owners of multifamily rental units to develop recycling plans, should the city fall short of the 20 percent recycling standard set by Maryland law.
However, with plans already in place to begin recycling residential trash collected from households across the Baltimore, officials say it is unlikely that the city will ever be forced to order mandatory recycling.
About 11 percent of the trash produced in the city already gets recycled, according to Stephen E. Chidsey, the city's recycling coordinator, and therefore doesn't go to landfills or incinerators. Most of the recycled trash comes from fast-food chains and other businesses. Only about 1 percent comes residential recyclers.
"We think we're going to make it, but if we fail, we want to be able to set mandatory recycling," said George G. Balog, public works director.
The mayor's announcement was praised by Alex W. Eastman, president of the Maryland Conservation Council, a coalition of 20 local environmental groups.
"It is a wonderful step in the right direction," said Ms. Eastman, who was present when the mayor made his announcement. "If the city takes the lead, citizens will follow."
Mr. Schmoke also said he will ask the council to increase the minimum fine for illegal dumping to $1,000 and will mobilize housing inspectors, sanitation workers and other city employees the field to recognize illegal dumping and work with police to catch violators.
City officials said city employees told of illegal dumping in the past have not always known what to do.
The mayor plans to undertake several other initiatives, including an environmental "things-to-do" list to outline ways city agencies can help and creation of an awards program to honor businesses and communities that make significant contributions.
He also plans to direct procurement officials to purchase products made from recycled material whenever possible.
Two years ago, the General Assembly passed a law requiring Baltimore and the 23 counties to be recycling at least 20 percent of trash that normally would wind up in landfills or incinerators by 1994. The city plans to be recycling as much as 27 percent of its trash by then, including trash generated and collected privately.