WASHINGTON COUNTY — Surrounded by piles of trash bags, boxes and even furniture, Washington County’s recycling drop boxes might sometimes look like miniature dumps, but a new advertising campaign aims to set the record straight.
The boxes are for recyclables only, and dumping anything else could lead to fines of $1,500 to $12,500, or 30 days to a year in jail under Maryland’s litter control law, said Cliff Engle, who heads the county’s Solid Waste Department.
That’s the message officials hope to spread through a Public Service Announcement set to air soon on Antietam Cable as part of a campaign by the solid waste department and the Washington County Sheriff’s Office to address increasing abuse of the drop boxes, Engle said.
Over a recent six-month period, the county collected almost 19 tons of trash from its 11 unmanned recycling drop-off sites, which equated to $937 in lost revenue, Washington County Recycling Coordinator Anthony Drury told the Washington County Commissioners at a meeting in February.
“A lot of folks in the county just don’t understand that the county does not take care of the garbage for the citizens,” Drury said then. “A lot of the people who I have caught illegally dumping things there are honestly doing that thinking that’s the place they can put those large items because the county comes and picks those up.”
Dealing with those bed frames, dressers, appliances, tires and bags of household trash costs the county in a number of ways, Engle said.
“First we have the cost of our staff having to go to the boxes and clean them up, we have the cost of the room in the landfill that that material is taking up without having been paid for, but just as important is the aesthetic issue,” he said.
The PSA campaign also will stress that recyclables are to be left only in the bins, not on the ground around them. Leaving recyclables on the ground is considered littering and could lead to fines, Drury said.
To help preserve space in the bins, cardboard boxes must be broken down first, Engle said.
In addition to the PSA spots, the campaign will include new signs at the drop-off sites and increased patrols through the sites by the sheriff’s office, Drury and Deputy Alan Matheny said.
The cost for the PSA, estimated at $1,000 to $2,000, will come from the Solid Waste Department’s operating budget, Engle said.