By design or by necessity, recycling soon will become a household word for Harford residents. But you'd never tell by the turnout at a public meeting on county recycling Thursday, county administrators say.

One person showed up at Southampton Middle School in Bel Air for the meeting -- the first of four sessions on county recycling. The lone person represented a sanitation company based in Baltimore County.

"It's disappointing," said Robert Donald, deputy director of the Harford Department of Public Works. "But we know the public is interested in the recycling."

County administrators can't escape recycling. Maryland counties have been charged by the state to draft plans for reducing the amount of trash dumped in landfills and burned in incinerators.

Harford officials must reduce by 15 percent the amount of county trash going into the Harford Waste Disposal Center at Scarboro and must submit to the state a plan by July.

Several methods have been discussed for reducing Harford trash, from a mandatory curbside recycling program to building a trash-sorting facility that removes recyclables from all trash.

One thing seems certain: The county's recycling plan will be a mix of programs and include increased business/industrial recycling and yard waste recycling, Donald said.

The reason for the meetings, Donald said, is to give residents a chance to say how they'd like to see that mix shake out.

"I want to hear from the guy we're going to be asking to do something with his recyclables, where it could affect them in the home," Donald said.

One proposal is to build a facility that would separate recyclables from the trash of Harford's 65,000 households. The cost is estimated at $5 million and has caused some negative reaction. But county officials say a mandatory curbside recycling likely would cost more per household over the long term.

Former County Executive Habern W. FreemanJr. was an ardent supporter of the trash-sorter being a primary partof the county's ultimately recycling plan, mainly because it promises 100 percent participation.

But under new county executive EileenM. Rehrmann, the plan is being re-evaluated.

"(Rehrmann) has not decided to back a certain recycling method,"

said Susan Collins, a spokeswoman for Rehrmann. "At this time she's waiting for public input."

Thus the recycling "tour." Rehrmann ordered the meeting series to gauge public sentiment about which direction the county recycling plan should be headed.

Despite Thursday's disappointment, the show goes on. On Thursday, Donald and his staff will be in Aberdeen, discussing different recycling procedures, answering questions and taking comments. The meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. in the multi-purpose room at Aberdeen Middle School, 111 Mount Royal Ave.

The remaining sessions are: Feb. 14, North Harford High School auditorium, 221 Pylesville Road, Pylesville; Feb. 21, Joppatowne High School auditorium, 555 Joppa Farm Road, Joppa.

Donald was optimistic that more people would attend the coming meetings.

"Maybe people are completely happy with the way we're doing things," Donald joked about the lack of turnout Thursday.

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