Making recycling mandatory

Carroll County commissioners appear likely to give themselves the authority to make recycling mandatory, despite an industry group's opposition and one commissioner's refusal to say where he stands.

County staff members had reported rumors that the commissioners planned to eliminate the mandatory recycling authorization when they vote on changes to the county's solid waste ordinance April 14. But the measure appears to have majority support.


The Maryland Delaware Solid Waste Association, which represents refuse haulers, will oppose the enabling provision, said Pamela S. Metz, executive director.

Commissioners Julia W. Gouge and Elmer C. Lippy expressed support for the enabling provision last week. Both said they would not vote to impose mandatory recycling unless the county fails to meet state-imposed recycling percentages.


Carroll residents and businesses voluntarily recycled more than enough trash to meet state mandates between July and December of last year. Recycling manager Vinnie Legge said the county total for the six-month period was 21 percent, well above the 15 percent requirement that became effective Jan. 1.

Commissioner Donald I. Dell declined to say how he plans to vote on the mandatory recycling authorization.

"I'd rather not expose my position until it's time to vote," he said. "My position might be different from [that of] the others."

Ms. Metz said the solid waste association will lobby against the measure. "We don't see the necessity for enabling legislation for a problem that is not now occurring," she said.

Ms. Metz said mandatory recycling would be difficult to implement, particularly for business and industry. Different companies generate different types of recyclable materials, with high sorting and bin costs for some items, she said.

For business and industry, "It's not like having one can for trash and one bin for recycling," Ms. Metz said.

She spoke against mandatory recycling at a public hearing before the commissioners Nov. 8. The county governing board needed no persuading.

"I hope we never have to use [the mandatory provision]," Mr. Lippy said. "As long as our recycling percentage never falls below 15 percent, I'd never use it."


He is trying to persuade more local businesses and industries to start recycling programs, arguing that it's a worthy goal and good for a corporation's image. He also said he hopes to place recycling bins at apartment complexes.

Mrs. Gouge said the provision to make recycling mandatory should remain in the ordinance to be used only if needed. "Once you make something mandatory, it becomes a whole new thing of enforcement," she said.

No Maryland county has adopted mandatory recycling, said Mike Sullivan, Maryland Department of the Environment spokesman. He said some incorporated towns require residents to recycle.

Westminster is one of them, but it's more a matter of education than having enforcement officers dig through people's trash, said Thomas B. Beyard, city Planning and Public Works director.

Mr. Beyard said curbside collections of recyclables have increased since curbside recycling began in 1992, but he could not attribute the increase to the city law requiring recycling. "I can attribute it to people becoming educated and familiar with our system," he said.

The county government could encourage participation by providing drop-off sites to make it easy for people to recycle, Mr. Beyard suggested.


"I think the difficulty the county has in approaching this [is] they look only at the state mandate," he said. The county could extend the life of its landfills with a convenient, easy recycling program, he said.