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Can you dig recycling projects?

September 02, 2011|Kate Coleman

Editor's note: This column has been corrected to show that in 2009, the effort kept an average of 18 tons of recyclables out of the county landfill each month. The recycling tonnage at the two bins increased to a monthly average of nearly 26 tons in 2010.

In April 1970, when Earth Day first was observed, I was a sophomore at a small Catholic women's college near Philadelphia. I lived in Gracemere, a big old Victorian house just off the edge of campus on the far side of a grassy hill.

Although the specifics have gotten fuzzy, I recall that we held a celebration — a concert and "teach-in" on that hill. With a nod to The Friends of Distinction's hit song "Grazing in the Grass," we called our event "Gracemere in the Grass."  

We glowed with the light of self-righteousness because we collected and recycled empty cans from the soda pop sold at the event. Seems a little silly now, but some 41 years later, recycling is a hot topic that I think is important.

On Tuesday, Aug. 22, at North Hagerstown High School, there was a meeting to gather public input on recycling options for Washington County.

At the same time, the Boonsboro Recycling Task Force held a rally in the community center in Shafer Park. The evening served as a celebration of the group's fourth anniversary, an opportunity to appreciate its volunteers and to enlist supporters to a new group called Friends of Recycling. For information, go to www.boonsborogreenfest.com.

About 40 people attended each meeting. I didn't make it to either, but I've since talked with Barbara Wetzel, a member of the Boonsboro task force. The group got started in August 2007 when Boonsboro's town government had to stop hosting the Washington-County-program-provided recycling bin because people were dumping more than recyclables at the site.

Members worked with the town to reinstate the county's recycling program. That December, recycling returned to Boonsboro via a bin placed in the Park-n-Ride in the town's South End. Task force members promised to monitor the site and did so every day for two years. In November 2009, a second bin was added. A few months later the town government took over monitoring duties on weekdays; task force members check the site on weekends.

That Boonsboro Recycling Task Force victory is inspiring. It reminds me of the movie "Field of Dreams:" "Build it and they will come."

In 2009, the effort kept an average of 18 tons of recyclables out of the county landfill each month. The recycling tonnage at the two bins increased to a monthly average of nearly 26 tons in 2010, according to Anthony Drury, Washington County Recycling Program coordinator.

The task force's work is not yet done. From the start, the group's second goal has been to bring curbside recycling to the residents of Boonsboro. The municipalities of Hagerstown, Williamsport, Clear Spring and Smithsburg have curbside recycling programs.

Recycling alone is not going to solve the problem of declining landfill space. But it has some effect, and for me, some is better than none. And it provides tangible proof of how much of a difference an individual can make.

That long-ago Earth Day was the first time I ever actually thought about trash and recycling.

In the many years since, I've rinsed out countless containers and piled puh-lenty of paper to recycle.

I'm not looking for praise. It's not a hardship. It's become automatic.

So like The Friends of Distinction song asks, "Can you dig it, baby?"



Kate Coleman covers The Maryland Symphony and writes a monthly column for The Herald-Mail.

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