Though the county has reached the point where it can collect recyclable paper, cans and most bottles from all county homes, not everyone has -- or wants -- the free service.
A lack of enthusiasm among a few apartment managers and condominium associations to accept the popular free service has left some residents without a benefit that most others in the county now enjoy.
"I'm a little distraught that we were never asked," said Sally Yasenka, who has lived for five years in a townhouse in Glen Meadows Condominiums in Columbia's Town Center, one of 13 complexes around the county that have refused the recycling pickup.
Since 1989, the county has gradually extended the reach of its recycling pickup program to all detached houses and many townhouse communities, helping it to meet the state requirement of recycling 20 percent of the county's waste.
In the last two years, the county's recycling program has exceeded both state requirements and the county's own goals for diverting would-be trash from the county's Alpha Ridge Landfill in Marriottsville. Officials calculate that the increased recycling saves the county about $900,000 a year in trash disposal costs.
The free recycling service to apartment complexes is credited, in part, with bringing the county up to a 30 percent recycling rate as of December. To be included in the program, complex managers or directors need only ask to be included in the program and put up $10.50 for the chain and lock to prevent theft of the bins.
"It's a free service. We supply the containers, and we provide the collection service," said Linda Fields, the county's recycling program manager.
So far, Paul McIntyre, recycling coordinator, has visited 85 apartment and condominium complexes out of 116 countywide to pitch the program. Forty-seven have service for both paper and containers, and two are getting paper pickup only.
In all, about 9,600 townhouse or apartment units now enjoy free recycling pickup.
Twenty-five other complexes have indicated that they want service and either are waiting for it to start or for a final decision from a condominium board of directors or property management company.
The apartment program, which started in September, is considered so successful that on July 1, the county shut down its flagship recycling service: a bright aluminum truck called "Sort with MoRT."
Until that program ended, the truck, which parked at five county locations during the week, was used mostly by apartment dwellers who did not have recycling pickup in their complexes.
One Monday in May, for instance, in the space of one hour, the now-defunct service attracted four recycling residents from the Tor Apartments complex in Columbia's Oakland Mills village, which is still on the list of complexes unwilling to take the service.
Joining the countywide recycling program "will mean that our residents will have to leave the building to go outside," said Tor Manager Pat Holden. "I have a good number of senior citizens, and I'm sure thatthey're not going to want to do it."
At Storch Woods Apartments in Savage, another complex on the list of those that have declined the service, Manager Bobbie Fairall said residents aren't that interested in recycling.
"I have 228 apartments, and if a couple of them are going to do it, it just isn't worth setting up for it," she said.
Mr. McIntyre said he found it interesting that among complexes owned and managed by the same company, some complex managers decided to join the program and some refused.
In Jessup, for instance, a truck from Browning-Ferris Industries, the county's apartment pickup contractor, collects recyclables every Saturday. The complex is owned by Savage-based Storch Realty, which also owns Storch Woods.
In some cases, he said, all a complex needs is a little convincing.
"The Pines at Dickinson was really funny," he said of a condominium complex in the Village of Kings Contrivance. "They said no initially, then I went to see them.
"For one reason or another they didn't want to put the containers near the Dumpsters," he said. But after discussing the matter, the complex's board of directors changed its mind about and "installed two wooden posts and poured concrete around them. We put the containers between the two posts and we chain them up that way."
Now its bins are consistently filled with the right kind of paper, bottles and cans, packaged correctly by residents.
"I hold them up as sort of a model community," Mr. McIntyre said.
Apartment and condominium complexes that have declined free recycling collection from the county:
* Ashton Meadows Apartments, Long Reach
* Bryant Gardens Condominiums, Wilde Lake
* Cedar Valley Apartments, Harper's Choice
* Clary's Forest I Condominiums, Hickory Ridge Village
* Country Meadows Apartments, North Laurel
* Cross Fox Condominiums, Wilde Lake
* Dorsey's Forge Apartments, Oakland Mills
* Glen Meadows Condominiums, Town Center
* Howard Hills Condominiums, Savage
* Long Reach House Condominiums, Long Reach
* Oakland Meadows Apartments, Oakland Mills
* Storch Woods Apartments, Savage
/# * Tor Apartments, Oakland Mills