Harford County has remained the state's leader in recycling, ending 2007 with the highest percentage of recycled waste and announcing efforts to push those numbers higher.
In the past 10 years, the county has increased recycling from 39 percent to 63 percent, with nearly 180,000 tons of materials recycled in the last fiscal year, which ended June 30.
Since the county implemented a state-mandated recycling plan 15 years ago, it has processed nearly 2 million tons of recycled products, including 68 tons of textiles, 43,500 tons of scrap metal -- which it can sell for about $125 a ton -- and 18,600 pounds of litter collected along Harford's roads, according to the annual report presented to the County Council on Tuesday.
"This program is saving space and extending the life of the county landfill," said Frank Henderson, Harford's deputy director of environmental affairs.
The Harford Waste Disposal Center in Street, which is expected to reach its capacity by the end of this year, will undergo a $3 million expansion on 77 adjoining acres. Continued recycling and a boost in the county's waste-to-energy program in Joppa could extend the life of the landfill to more than 30 years, officials said.
Harford's yard waste program, based at an 11-acre property next to the landfill, created about 40,000 tons of mulch last year -- some of it from about 25,000 Christmas trees -- and made it available to county residents.
Acceptable textiles, from clean, dry clothing to linens and shoes, can be converted into industrial shop rags. Computer recycling, the newest program at the disposal center, has diverted more than 100 tons annually from the waste stream, the report said.
Becky Joesting, the county's recycling coordinator, has developed a program on the benefits of recycling, which she offers to businesses, community groups and school children.
Successful recycling involves collection, remanufacturing and a return to the marketplace, the report says.
The county offers master gardening and composting classes to residents and a free waste reduction survey that helps businesses evaluate disposal options.
Council members unanimously approved the 2008 recycling plan and asked the Public Works Department to consider single-stream recycling and same-day collection to boost participation.
Havre de Grace Councilman James P. Miller suggested locating transfer stations in neighborhoods to cut down on trips to the landfill. He also pushed for single-stream recycling. If businesses and residents do not have to sort items or transport them to the landfill, they may be more inclined to participate in the program, he said.
"Baltimore County is considering a change to single stream," said Bob Ernst, Harford's recycling program manager. "If they go in that direction, we are likely to follow."
Council members asked the department to schedule more days each year for collection of household waste, such as paint, and to start a program to recycle plastic grocery bags.
"In today's market, we need to go farther and faster," said Councilwoman Mary Ann Lisanti. "Look at this from a global perspective."