The county commissioners unanimously adopted a solid waste ordinance Thursday that compels trash haulers to offer curbside recycling to Carroll customers, but does not require residents to recycle.
The adoption culminates five months of debate over how to establish a cost-effective and efficient recycling program to comply with state law mandating that Carroll recycle a minimum of 15 percent of its waste by 1994.
The now-defunct Recycling Committee recommended requiring recycling and hiring one trash hauler to provide curbside collection of recyclables in Carroll's eight municipalities and the unincorporated areas. The committee received a bid of $24 per household per year for curbside recycling.
The commissioners settled on a more decentralized system that allows the 10 or so private trash haulers serving residents in unincorporated areas to design their own recycling plans and forge individual contracts with customers. Municipalities are forming their own plans. The commissioners reversed an earlier stance of making recycling mandatory.
Carroll municipal officials criticized the commissioners for making recycling voluntary, declining to ban recyclable items from county landfills, and supporting a trash collection and recycling system they say is inefficient and costs residents more than necessary.
The commissioners countered that disposing of solid waste is a complex issue, and that their plan attempts to address concerns of both haulers and residents.
"If nobody likes it, then we must have done something right," said Commissioner Elmer C. Lippy. "In spite of our apparent vacillation, we listened to citizens, sifted the chaff from the wheat and came up with something workable. That's the key word."
Commissioners Donald I. Dell and Julia W. Gouge say the plan is subject to change.
"I don't know if it's the best plan there is, but it's a plan. That's DTC the most important part," said Gouge. "We need a plan to begin the process. If we find six months into it that it should be changed, we can do that."
The ordinance requires that all businesses or entities that
collect, haul, dispose of or purchase recyclables in Carroll be licensed by the county. Individuals transporting solid wastes and recyclables from their homes, small businesses or farms are exempt.
Groups or businesses that purchase recyclables must be licensed so the county can receive reports on amounts collected.
The county has contracted with Phoenix Recycling Inc. of Finksburg to accept the recyclables that are collected. Haulers and other groups are allowed to bring their recyclables to other licensed outlets.
Trash haulers are required to include on each invoice to residential customers a notice stating the county's landfill dumping fee, which is scheduled to increase from $15 per ton to $40 by July 1.
The notice also must say that each household generates an average of 1 to 1.5 tons of trash annually without recycling. Haulers pass on to customers the cost of landfill fees, intended to pay for the county's solid waste management program.
Curbside recycling is supposed to begin on or after July 1. After Jan. 1, yard waste may be separated and delivered to composting facilities at landfills.
Westminster Mayor W. Benjamin Brown has been the most vocal critic of the commissioners' trash collection and recycling plan, charging that the board was irresponsible by giving little consideration to a countywide system. Brown contends that such a system could cut solid waste bills in half for many residents.
He asked to speak before the commissioners voted on the ordinance, but they said no.
The commissioners have asked Carroll mayors to participate in a study of the benefits and drawbacks of countywide solid waste collection, which could include franchising regions.
Only New Windsor wrote to express its interest.
Brown balked at the idea, saying the county need only request bids to determine the savings possible from countywide collection.
Lippy said he will push for creating a study committee, whether municipalities want to participate or not. Gouge agrees that the issue merits further study. However, she said Brown might have underestimated the collection costs in the county's rural areas.