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Mount Airy's 40% recycling rate wins recognition


Mount Airy, which recycles 40 percent of its trash, has won recognition from the Maryland Recyclers Coalition for "bringing recycling to a small community."

Four years ago, the Mount Airy Town Council formed a citizens recycling committee to spearhead community recycling efforts.

The committee worked with officials in Frederick and Carroll counties to get drop-off recycling bins placed throughout the town to collect clear and colored glass, aluminum cans and plastic. The town straddles the Frederick-Carroll border.

Since then, Mount Airy has expanded its recycling program to include newspaper and cardboard and has implemented mandatory curbside recycling. The town now leads Frederick and Carroll communities in its recycling efforts, officials say.

The Maryland Recyclers Coalition, a nonprofit group that promotes waste reduction and recycling, recognized the committee's efforts last week by giving it an honorable mention in the coalition's first awards presentation.

Given the edge in the coalition's "extraordinary achievement category" was the annual Preakness Cleanup. That project involves 150 volunteers who clean up after the event and recycle thousands of pounds of aluminum cans. Profits from the recycling are donated to rain forest preservation in Costa Rica.

The coalition also presented the Dwight A. Copenhaver Recycler of the Year Award, named after the Carroll recycling coordinator who died this year of cancer. The award was presented to the Northeast Maryland Waste Disposal Authority for its contributions in developing markets for recycled products.

Mount Airy recycling volunteers were delighted with their honorable mention.

The group received a certificate, which will be formally presented to them at the next Town Council meeting.

"I think it's terrific," said Wendi Peters, who chairs the recycling committee. "I think it's outstanding. I give credit to the town for implementing the mandatory program, and the citizens for taking the time to cooperate and work with us. It benefits us all."

Councilman Billy Wagner, the council's liaison to the committee, estimated that about 90 percent of the town's nearly 4,000 residents are participating in the recycling program, which began last summer.

Other Carroll towns have implemented voluntary curbside recycling programs, but their recycling rates are nowhere near Mount Airy's, ranging from the high teens to about 30 percent.

Carroll's overall recycling rate is about 14 percent -- just below a state mandate for the county to recycle 15 percent of its trash by 1994. Voluntary curbside recycling is available to all county residents.

Frederick County recycles about 17 percent of its trash. About 4,000 households participate in voluntary curbside programs, and drop-off centers have been set up throughout the county.

About half that county's 60,000 households will have curbside service by next spring.

Despite Mount Airy's success, Mr. Wagner and the committee members continue to face hurdles in boosting recycling efforts.

They want to increase recycling among apartment dwellers and businesses.

"We're working right now with apartment dwellers to improve their recycling," Mr. Wagner said.

Businesses are participating in the program, but committee members said they believe the commercial sector could be doing more to recycle. About half the waste stream of any jurisdiction is commercial trash.

Town officials said some of the difficulties in getting apartment dwellers to recycle stem from the transience of the populations, lack of space for recycling bins and lack of cooperation from apartment managers.

Mr. Wagner said there are three apartment complexes in Mount Airy.

Howard and Frederick county officials also are working to boost recycling participation among apartment and condominium dwellers.

Although Mount Airy has been successful in its recycling efforts, committee member Pam Brewer said the group must continue to make people aware of what is recyclable and what isn't, and of the importance of reducing trash.

"We're asking people to change a habit in their lives, but I think most people seem to realize that it is important and we're doing it for the kids," Ms. Brewer said.

Mr. Wagner said the town is striving to recycle 50 percent of its trash by the end of this year.

"I don't see any reason why we shouldn't be able to do it," he said.

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