Our solid waste dilemma is a result of government's complacency and failure to seek solutions. But it is primarily a man-made problem -- one that cannot be addressed effectively without the full cooperationof every citizen.
In 1990, each Carroll resident generated about 1,600 pounds of trash. By 1992, half of Maryland's 41 landfills will be filled.
To alleviate the problem, the 1988 Maryland Recycling Act requires jurisdictions with populations greater than 150,000 to recycle 20 percent of their solid waste by January 1994. Those such as Carroll, with smaller populations, must recycle 15 percent of their solid waste.
Targeted recyclables are glass containers, aluminum and ferrous cans, paper products, plastics and yard waste.
Northern Landfill in Reese receives 72 percent of Carroll's collected solid waste. The remainder goes to the Hoods Mill Landfill.
Carroll now uses curbside collections, drop-off bins and buy-back programs for collecting residential recyclable materials.
Union Bridge's curbside collection program, being looked to as a model by other county municipalities, has reduced the town's solid waste stream by 17 percent.
The Recycling Center near the Westminster airport is a drop-off center, with a day crew to assist in unloading recyclables. It also serves as a buy-back center for aluminum cans. Another drop-off program -- open the first Saturday of each month -- is sponsored by St. George's EpiscopalChurch in Manchester.
Self-service drop-off bins are located throughout Carroll -- two in Westminster and one each in Eldersburg, Finksburg, Hampstead, Manchester, Mount Airy, New Windsor, Piney Run Parkand Taneytown.
You drive up, sort your cans, plastics, clear and colored glass, dump them into the appropriate section of the bin and drive off.
To meet the state-mandated recycling goal, Carroll mustrecover 30 percent of each of the targeted materials, or 22,215 tonsper year.
In 1990, almost 306 tons of recycled materials were collected from all of the drop-off bins. You can see we have quite a wayto go to meet the state-mandated goal of 15 percent of all solid waste.
As required by the 1988 Recycling Act, Carroll has formulated a Master Recycling Plan that would enable the county to meet its goal.
A county public information program is already in the works.
The Speaker's Bureau, assembled to promote Carroll's April 1991 EarthDay activities, has emphasized recycling.
About 50 programs have already been presented to county church and civic groups, college students and public school pupils.
Fact sheets on recycling have beendeveloped and distributed. An informative flier with recycling updates has been included with the county's annual tax bill, sent to 35,000 households.
With the enactment of the Recycling Act and its mandated deadlines to plan, implement and reach specific recycling goals,the state has shown its commitment to make recycling work. Local jurisdictions have shown their commitment by complying.
But no amountof effort on the part of governments will be meaningful without the commitment of every citizen. In short, without our commitment, recycling won't work.
Start with one item. Recycle your aluminum cans. After a month or so, you will realize how simple and painless it has been to recycle that item and may be willing to expand your efforts.
In my basement I keep several cardboard boxes to hold recyclables until I go to one of the Westminster drop-off bins.
The county Recycling Office, 857-2177, offers useful advice on how to become an environmental shopper.
Included among the ideas are:
* Take your own bags to the grocery store. Recycle those you've gotten on previous visits.
* Buy products packaged in recycled materials to encouragemanufacturers to use them.
The Recycling Office also can arrange for a Speaker's Bureau member to tell your organization how to becomea committed recycler.
If each household in Carroll begins in somesmall way to do something to make recycling a part of their lives, we will begin to make recycling a reality.
As I see it, we have been a part of the problem for far too long. It is high time we become part of the solution.