Business at Carroll County's recycling center plunged when the center moved from an old barn on Route 97 north of Westminster to the Northern Landfill at Reese in October. Since September, the tonnage of recycled materials has dropped more than half.
But the drop didn't cause even a small dip in the reported percentage of rubbish that county residents and businesses recycle. The county's year-end recycling report for 1993 shows that tons of yard waste diverted from the landfill in October and November more than made up for reduced collections from the recycling barn.
County recycling numbers don't accurately reflect the amounts of materials kept out of landfills in any individual month, the head of the department that keeps the statistics readily acknowledges.
"No doubt about it," said County Comptroller Eugene C. Curfman. "It does give an artificial picture for that particular month."
He said he's not worried about single months, "as long as we can average 15 percent," the state-mandated recycling figure for rural counties that took effect in 1994.
A graph of the county's recycling numbers would show two flat months followed by a peak month each quarter. The distortion is created because local businesses report their recycling tonnages quarterly, and the county staff adds three months' worth of business recycling to the month when business figures are reported.
Vinnie Legge, county recycling manager, said the businesses do not break down their totals by month. "Just getting them to report to us is a major goal to achieve," she said.
Ms. Legge said she could average the commercial recycling totals across each three-month period, "but I do a report monthly and I'd have to go back and redo all those reports."
Mr. Curfman said the quarterly reports were an effort "to make it as easy as possible for businesses to report voluntarily to us. If you ask for a monthly breakdown, you might as well ask them to report monthly."
Volume at the recycling center still hasn't recovered since the move from the barn near the county airport to the landfill, said Timothy J. Atkinson, executive director of the ARC. The association for mentally disabled citizens operates the center for the county.
In January 1993, the center bought 9,500 pounds of aluminum cans from 331 customers, Mr. Atkinson reported. Last month, it bought 1,850 pounds from 52 customers. He said part of the difference is attributable to winter weather that forced the ARC to close the center several days last month.
Commissioners Donald I. Dell and Elmer C. Lippy said they plan to wait and see whether volume rebounds at the recycling center before deciding whether to open a new center outside the landfill.
Some customers have complained that they must wait in line to get inside the landfill gates and can use the facility only from 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily or until 3 p.m. Saturday, the landfill's operating hours. Customers were able to take recyclables to the barn any time, even though it was staffed only from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
The county had to close and raze the barn because the Industrial Development Authority is developing the site for Freewing Aircraft, a maker of experimental airplanes. William E. Jenne, Carroll's economic development administrator, said the authority hopes to break ground in early spring.
The commissioners have discussed moving the recycling center back to the airport, where the county owns land at the north end of the planned runway extension.
The recycling barn took in 89 tons in September. That volume plunged to 18 tons in October, then rose slightly to 28 tons in November and 37 tons in December. Meanwhile, yard waste jumped from 167 tons in September to 287 tons in October and 410 tons in November.
Carroll recycled 16.7 percent of its waste in October and 17.8 percent in November, more than in some months when the recycling barn was in business. Commissioner Lippy said he is "not ready to hit the panic button" after seeing the drop in business at the recycling center. He said he would like to see the county's overall percentages rise, but he does not favor making recycling mandatory unless the percentages drop below the required 15 percent.