Recycling in Baltimore County has increased by a third since the county began collecting bottles, cans, paper and plastic all together, officials said Wednesday.
The switch to single-stream recycling in February has put the county on pace to save more than $600,000 this year, recycling and waste prevention manager Charles Reighart said. Trash generation has declined by 4.4 percent, he said, extending the life of the Eastern Landfill.
"We knew people were eager to recycle," County Executive James T. Smith Jr. told reporters at the landfill in White Marsh. "But our results have been outstanding. Residents are doing more than ever to reduce pollution."
Still, he suggested that there is room for improvement. The piles of trash at the landfill included bottles, cans and large pieces of cardboard.
"Loads more of this trash could have been recycled," Smith said.
From Feb. 1 through April 10, the county collected a weekly average of 929 tons of recyclables, an increase of 33.5 percent over the 696 tons collected per week in 2009, Reighart said. The 2010 figure does not include the two weeks of snowstorms in February.
The decline in waste generation means savings for the county, Reighart said.
"The county pays $55 a ton to handle trash," Reighart said. "No money changes hands for a ton of recycling."
Waste Management Inc. sorts the county's recyclables in Elkridge and sells them for whatever it can get.
Before switching to weekly single-stream collection on Feb. 1, the county had collected paper one week and bottles, cans and plastic the next. Now residents may throw recyclables all together for a single weekly pickup.
"I think our rates will keep going up," said David Carroll, county director of sustainability. "The need to recycle is sinking in."
Smith said the county has come a long way from 20 years ago, when volunteers staffed a few recycling centers. Home collection began in 1995, but some residents balked at sorting materials and storing items for two weeks or longer.
Now haulers collect trash and recyclables from 237,000 homes and more than 7,000 apartment and condominium complexes in the county. Officials expect to bring another 74,000 private apartment and condominium developments into the recycling program soon.