Changes in Trash Collection Cycles Likely
Curb collection of trash may be reduced to once a week to cut costs, encourage recycling.
Anne Arundel County residents could soon see a reduction in their trash collection schedules. Last week, the county executive's office announced plans to reduce trash pickup from twice weekly collections to once a week. The move would reportedly reduce trash hauling costs and encourage recycling.
In a recent release, County Executive John Leopold stated that the county's recycling rate had risen from 31 percent to almost 40 percent. This figure, however, was short of Anne Arundel County's stated goal of 50/50 recycling by weight.
In August of 2009, Leopold appointed a Recycling Advisory Committee (RAC) to research ways to increase residential recycling. The committee was appointed to a one-year term, ending in December 2010. The RAC submitted a report to the county executive and made some recommendations.
The RAC's report recommended a weekly trash hauling schedule, preferably on the same day as when the recyclables are collected. It suggested that the county residential recycling must be expanded to include small businesses in order to have any significant effect on recycling.
Among other findings, the report also noted that the stated 50/50 goal might need to be revisited. For example, the 40 percent figure reflects data for curbside pickup of recyclables in residential areas. It does not include those cases when residents directly took their recyclable material to convenience centers, which are located in Sudley, Millersville and Glen Burnie. Nor does it include the recycling efforts of small businesses.
According to Matt Diehl, spokesperson for the county's Department of Public Works (DPW), the details of trash hauling are still being negotiated with contractors. He stated that the new schedules, when decided on by the county executive, would be implemented countywide.
"In the near future," Diehl replied when pressed about how soon these new schedules might be in place.
Each household in the county pays a flat fee of $275 annually for waste management. This amount shows up in the annual tax bill. For the whole county, the annual bill for trash and recycling hauling is $22.5 million.
The county doesn't know exactly how much money would be saved on the hauling contracts by switching to a different schedule. The DPW is going with an estimate of a 10 percent reduction in the $22.5 million bill, said Diehl.
The benefits of reduced trash pickups would be seen as lower fees, he said.
The RAC report called for more aggressive recycling. Not only is this great for the environment, it could generate additional revenue for the county.
The county sells its recyclable trash at market-driven rates, Diehl said. The contract that DPW Waste Managements Services has with the vendor is a no-loss contract, meaning the county cannot lose money.
Through the sale of its recyclables, Anne Arundel County has generated as much as $1 million in revenue in the past. This figure will likely increase if the curbside recycling rate continues to climb as it has for the previous four years, he added.
"Each time a recyclable item is thrown into trash, it is money that is being buried in the landfill," he added.
Recyclables in the trash also means that the county's single landfill in Millersville gets filled faster.
People tend to mix up their recyclable items with their trash, especially if the recycle pickup is scheduled later. Reducing the number of trash pickup days forces residents to be more mindful of what they are throwing into which bin, said Diehl.
Recycle bins that residents use now from DPW offices have a 32-gallon capacity, said Diehl. In a pilot program in Glen Burnie, the county tested 64-gallon wheeled- and lidded-recycle carts.
With larger recycle carts, the trash at the curbs will probably be even with the amount of recyclables, Diehl predicted. There will be less flyaway debris, resulting in cleaner streets.
What Can Concerned Residents Do?
Still not sure if a reduced trash pickup schedule is good for the county?
Trash contracts are handled by the executive branch of the county government, said Diehl. They are not subject to council voting.
However, Diehl said concerned residents with opinions on the matter can call the customer relations line at Waste Management Services at 410-222-6108.