Baltimore County has unveiled a single-stream recycling program that can help decrease the tonnage of trash and ultimately the costs involved in transporting waste to landfills and incinerators.
The county will launch a Web site today, www.BCrecycles.com, that will explain how the program is expanding to weekly pickup of all recyclable items and increasing the types of items that can be recycled.
Beginning Feb. 1, residents can put out for weekly curbside collection one 34-gallon container with all designated items, including paper, bottles and cans. While there is no firm estimate on how much increased participation in recycling will save taxpayers in disposal costs, county officials are aggressively pursuing the new program to encourage residents to recycle.
"This program is not designed to generate income but to reduce waste costs," said Councilman Kevin Kamenetz. "Recycling is always a better choice than setting items out for trash."
The county expects to spend nearly $165 million in the next 10 years for commercial and residential trash removal. In contracts approved last week, Wheelabrator Baltimore is expected to dispose of about 100,000 tons of waste in 2010, an amount that could increase to 262,000 tons before its contract expires in 2020. Republic Services of Pennsylvania will handle 38,500 tons of commercial waste next year and more than double that tonnage within the same contract term. Projected increases in cost per ton of disposal, now at $44 for Wheelabrator and $41 for Republic, are built into the contracts.
"As long as we get items out of the waste stream, we can reduce costs," said Charles Reighart, the county's recycling and waste prevention manager. "Everybody has a stake in recycling. It is not just an abstract principle. It has a direct impact on the taxes we are paying for services."
In the 14 years since the county instituted a recycling schedule that alternated between paper and bottles, more than 1.5 billion tons have been recycled. In 2008, the county collected 33 tons of recyclables as a result of the service that is available to 240,000 homes. The public works staff is working to bring another 63,000 apartments and condominium units into the program.
Officials said they expect participation will increase, given the ease of the single-stream program and weekly pick-ups that eliminate the storage of recyclables for up to two weeks.
"This program prevents pollution, conserves energy and saves landfill space," County Executive James T. Smith Jr. said.