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Recycling benefits the environment and wallet

Stacy M. Brown | 5/30/2014, 6 a.m.
Mixing in cans, plastics, cardboards, bottles and other recyclables with other household trash is the same as throwing money in ...

Mixing in cans, plastics, cardboards, bottles and other recyclables with other household trash is the same as throwing money in the garbage, according to Anne Arundel County officials.

The county raked in about $915,000 on the sale of single-stream recyclables in 2013 and officials say an increase in recycling has proven less of a strain on the wallets of residents.

The earnings from recycling have been passed on to the residents, who two years ago paid a trash collection fee of $315 and now have seen that bill reduced to $298.

“Our citizens understand the value of recycling and while we don’t send them a check, they are seeing a savings because of their efforts,” said Rich Bowen, manager of the county’s Recycling and Waste Reduction Division.

Over the past four years, the curbside recycling rate has increased from 39 percent to 44 percent and the vast majority of residents are taking time to separate paper, plastics, cardboard and other recyclables and place them in the proper receptacles for pickup, Bowen said.

And, while approximately 90 percent of county residents recycle, Bowen says many still aren’t doing all that they can as evidenced by inspectors continuing to find some recyclables in local trash cans.

Officials says that county residents placed 28.9 million pounds of paper, 20.4 million pounds of plastic, 5.1 million pounds of metal, and 3.4 million pounds of glass into trash cans instead of the proper recycle bins, which could have earned more cash and savings for the local government and homeowners and occupants.

“Recycling is behavioral, so we’re promoting recycling and the more the residents hear about it, the more they see it, the more it becomes second nature,” he said.

The county has continued a campaign to raise awareness to recycling as well as to remind everyone that doing so helps the bottom line of both the household and local government’s budget.

Bowen says putting recyclables in the trash costs the county more money to dispose of and wastes valuable landfill space. It can also mean higher trash collection charges to the homeowner.

On the other hand, properly placed recyclables earn money for the county, save landfill space and reduce trash collection fees for homeowners.

“All we are asking residents is that they make the right choice when they are throwing things into the trash,” Bowen said.

Residents also have other reasons to comply with recycling. The county’s property maintenance code requires each owner and occupant of a property to provide a sufficient number of containers for the storage and disposal of trash and officials warn that improper storage of household trash can provide a source of food and a home for rodents and insects which could result in a health nuisance.

“Paper, plastic, metal and glass can be recycled using a county-issued recycling container,” Bowen said, noting that recycling also significantly reduces the homeowner or occupant’s need for storage and disposal of household trash between times of trash collection service. “Recycling controls the cost of what our residents pay and it helps the environment, as most everyone knows.”

For instance, newspaper is made into blank newsprint rolls for new newspapers, cardboard is turned into new cardboard boxes, plastics are made into new plastic products, aluminum is used to make cans, and steel cans are made into new cans, automobile parts and other metal products.

Recycling glass allows for new glass bottles or it can be used in asphalt paving or other construction products. Recyclable commodities are marketed by the county and the income helps to augment the county’s budget and reduce fees for homeowners.

“We know that most of our residents are environmentally conscious,” Bowen said. “But, this really does help to save money and we will continue to reach out and educate our residents about the benefits of recycling.”