A Howard County advisory panel has recommended that county government begin charging residents for each bag of trash collected -- setting the stage for Howard to become the first county in the state to follow the latest national trend in reducing waste.
The county's Solid Waste Funding Assessment Board recommended on Friday that the county charge each household $100 a year, beginning next July, for once-a-week trash pickup.
As of January 1997, the group recommended, the county should pick up only a single 30-gallon bag per week for the $100 annual fee and begin charging $1.50 for each additional 30-gallon bag or 75 cents for each 13-gallon "kitchen can" bag.
Howard residents who don't get curbside trash pickup, such as apartment dwellers, would be charged a flat annual fee of $85 for any amount of trash.
The panel proposed that local government sell stickers at retail stores and government offices to put on trash bags as proof of payment.
Howard would not charge for picking up residents' trash under its recycling program, and the county's goal in inaugurating trash fees would be to increase recycling.
"It's a good report and I like the concept, particularly the incentive to get people to recycle," said County Executive Charles I. Ecker.
County homes and businesses divert about 30 percent of their waste into county government and private recycling programs. State law requires 20 percent, and Mr. Ecker said Howard is capable of a 50 percent recycling rate.
The main problem faced by the board was how the county can meet its skyrocketing trash costs. The report said that between this fiscal year and 2005, the county's annual waste-management costs will rise from $8.6 million to $25.7 million.
Most of that $17 million increase will come from the cost of shipping the county's trash out of the region, which is to begin in January 1997.
About $3 million of the increase will service the debt on $42.4 million worth of work needed to clean up and to prevent pollution at the county's three landfills -- in Marriottsville, Woodbine and Ellicott City.
"The easy way out is to do like Anne Arundel and Montgomery counties and charge a flat $200 a year," said Jack Hollerbach, chairman of the trash-financing board. Charging by amount of trash, he said, will reduce the county's waste and save on trash-hauling and disposal costs.
The only other jurisdiction in Maryland that charges by the
amount of trash is Aberdeen in Harford County. Its residents buy stickers at 80 cents for a 30-gallon bag and 40 cents for a 13-gallon bag. The money pays only for landfill disposal -- not collection, for which there is no charge.
In most of the state's large suburban counties -- Anne Arundel, Montgomery and Prince George's -- residents pay an annual fee of as much as $200 for trash service. Trash collection and disposal in those counties is self-supporting and doesn't use income and property tax revenue as Howard's current trash service does.
"I think it's a great example to set for the rest of the state," said Daniel L. Jerrems, chairman of the Baltimore Recycling Coalition. "It will definitely encourage recycling, and, almost as importantly, it will encourage waste reduction."