Westminster hit record recycling rate in November


Westminster residents saved themselves $8,580 in landfill fees last month by recycling a record 40 percent of their metal cans, plastic containers, paper, cardboard, grass clippings and leaves.

"I'm very delighted. I think this proves what happens when you make curbside recycling convenient and accessible to people," said Mayor W. Benjamin Brown. He added that he believes city residents will do even better in 1994.

Yard waste collections boosted Westminster's November recycling percentage to the top of the five towns that participate in the unified solid-waste management and recycling program.

The city percentage was more than double the countywide recycling figure for November, 17.8 percent.

Comparisons are difficult because some towns in the unified program offer curbside pickup to businesses and apartment complexes. Westminster collects only from residences and apartment buildings of three or fewer units.

Some towns don't collect grass and leaves.

Some collect yard waste but don't weigh or add it to their recycling totals.

Union Bridge, for example, does casual leaf pickup. "Whenever [a contract worker] sees bags of leaves out, he picks them up," said Kathy Kreimer, clerk-treasurer.

A local farmer takes the leaves, she said.

Mayor Perry L. Jones Jr. said about 1,000 bags of leaves were picked up during the fall, but he did not know the weight.

Taneytown also picked up leaves, but didn't weigh them, said clerk-treasurer Linda Hess.

Hampstead does not collect yard waste, but had a 34 percent recycling rate in November, thanks primarily to large amounts of recyclables placed in town bins.

Newspaper is the major item in the bins, Town Manager John Riley reported.

Recycling percentages aren't just civic pride boosters. The state law that requires counties to recycle percentages of their solid waste becomes effective Jan. 1.

Carroll County, including the towns, will be required to recycle 15 percent of its waste.

Westminster is the only town in the unifed program to have made recycling mandatory. But Public Works Director Thomas B. Beyard pointed out that as a practical matter, participation is voluntary.

"At curbside, it's still a person's choice unless you're going to get out and write tickets or something," Mr. Beyard said. "The person makes the decision whether to recycle."

County government charges $40 a ton for materials that go into the landfill. The 215 tons recycled last month saved at least $8,500 in landfill fees, Mr. Beyard said. The city sent 320 tons of solid waste to the landfill.

Westminster traditionally has collected leaves, but this year is the first that city crews also picked up grass clippings. Mr. Beyard said city officials wanted to have a collection program in place because they anticipate that the county commissioners eventually will ban yard waste from landfills.

Most of the yard waste went to a mulch pile on the county landfill property, but the city ground up about 3 tons for mulch in municipal flower beds.

Street Superintendent Donald Gross said he has also given away some mulch.

It should be reground to make it finer, he said. "But if anyone wants mulch, we'll give it to them if we've got it."

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