The Washington County Board of Commissioners Tuesday considered a "pay-as-you-throw" trash-disposal service that would encourage more county residents to recycle their trash.
Under one possible scenario in that proposal, people would purchase two different trash bags, according to Richard Schulman, a member of the Washington County Solid Waste Advisory Committee.
Bags for regular garbage would cost a lot more than bags for recyclables, providing an incentive for people to recycle more, Schulman said at Tuesday afternoon's meeting.
But the concept was not among a list of recommendations from the solid waste advisory panel that the commissioners approved.
It was agreed that Washington County Administrator Gregory B. Murray would have until mid-November to come back to the commissioners with a more detailed proposal on how the pay-as-you-throw plan could be implemented, among other options.
The recommendations that the commissioners approved included:
- Enhancing enforcement of the county's current recycling law, which requires a trash-hauling company that picks up municipal solid waste to also collect or provide for the collection of recyclables. Schulman said not all trash haulers in the county offer recycling.
- Increasing the public's awareness of recycling by listing the names and contact information of licensed trash haulers in the county and the services they provide. The information would be listed on the on the county's solid waste division website.
- Supporting towns in the county that want to start recycling programs. The county would support the towns by providing staff assistance.
Expanding county programs like curbside recycling have been long debated.
During a public information meeting at North Hagerstown High School last month, participants were divided in their support for curbside recycling versus an expanded drop-box service. But most agreed they do not want the county to "do nothing."
The recycling recommendations were presented to the commissioners by the solid waste advisory committee.
Commissioner Ruth Anne Callaham said she liked the pay-as-you-throw concept and felt it would be attractive to some county residents.
Of all the correspondence she has received on recycling, Callaham said it has been evenly divided between people who said "don't you dare" implement recycling and people who compared recycling to "environmental stewardship." Given the comments, Callaham said she believes it is important to give people choices.
"I say, let's move forward," Callaham said.
Commissioners President Terry Baker said he had concerns about the recommendation that contained pay-as-you-throw, including the suggestion that the annual permit fee at the county landfill be increased to $200.
For $130 a year, county residents can now purchase a permit that allows them to dump trash at the landfill. There are rules for how much trash can be dumped, but there is criticism that the service is abused by people bringing in excessive amounts of trash.
Baker said he was not comfortable raising the landfill fee to $200, but might be able to support pay-as-you-throw if the landfill fee hike is removed.
Callaham expressed concern about "shutting the door" on solutions.
"I don't think we would shut the door on anything," Baker said.
The commissioners also approved extending the contract for recycling drop-off boxes in the county for nine months, according to Commissioner Jeff Cline. That will allow the boxes to stay in place until the county decides whether to keep them, Cline said.