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Recycling company tries to curb confusion

About 2,600 households opt out of Allied Waste recycling service

May 16, 2012|By ANDREW SCHOTZ | andrews@herald-mail.com
  • Recyling bins sit outside homes Tuesday on Mesa Terrace in Hagerstown's North End
By Ric Dugan, Staff Photographer

Not everyone in Washington County who received a recycling bin from Allied Waste this week wanted one.

The trash-hauling company used an opt-out system to sign up customers for curbside recycling pickup service that will start next month.

Allied mailed postcards to nearly 8,000 households. People who didn’t want the service had to contact the company.

Preston Fouke, who lives on Perfection Court in the Fountain Head Manor neighborhood north of Hagerstown, did just that.

After receiving a bin on Tuesday, he contacted Allied and insisted that the bin be removed within 24 hours or he’d call the Better Business Bureau. Allied took the bin back the same day.

Allied’s bin distribution is the latest chapter in recycling in Washington County.

While some municipalities in the county have moved toward curbside recycling service, Washington County has not. Instead, the county commissioners agreed in January to help Allied promote its program.

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The county is encouraging residents to use any private recycling pickup instead of the county’s bins, which are a financial drain.

Apple Valley Waste, Hoppers and Waste Management also are offering curbside recycling pickup in parts of Washington County.

Allied’s pilot area in the county is north of Hagerstown, Jefferson Boulevard, Robinwood, Virginia Avenue, and the area around Boonsboro and Keedysville,The Herald-Mail has reported.

Service will cost $5 a month and will begin the week of June 4. Recyclable items will be collected every other week.

Don Groseclose, Allied Waste’s Chesapeake area municipal manager, said the company sent postcards to 7,800 households three or four weeks ago.

Before Allied delivered any of the 95-gallon bins, about 1,200 households asked not to be included.

After the bin distribution began, Allied received about 1,400 more requests from households that don’t want the service, Groseclose said.

That still leaves Allied on pace to hit a target it was trying to reach — 45 percent acceptance.

Asked about using opt-out sign-up instead of opt-in sign-up, which likely would have a lower participation rate, Groseclose said the company talked with the Washington County Board of Commissioners in January about a sustainable approach.

“This is to create the densities within the county for a viable recycling program,” he said.

He noted that some Washington County towns are starting curbside recycling separate from what the county is doing, narrowing Allied’s potential customer base.

The city of Hagerstown already has curbside recycling.

The county plans to start charging residents $3 a month on July 1 to use recycling bins at the landfill and transfer stations. People who live in the Allied pilot area are not eligible, even if they opt out of Allied’s program.

County Administrator Gregory B. Murray could not be reached by email or phone on Wednesday for comment about the bin distribution.

The letter Allied tucked in the bins this week begins: “This letter is a follow up to the post card you received from Washington County regarding Allied Waste’s take over of your curbside recycling service.”

Allied Waste, not Washington County, sent the earlier postcards, Groseclose confirmed.

“If it’s not precise wording, I apologize for that,” he said.

Fouke, who confirmed with a county official that the postcards came from Allied, said they’re junk mail that most people would overlook and throw away — which he probably did, since he doesn’t remember seeing one.

He said he’s a fan of recycling, having helped start a program at Fort Detrick as a civilian employee in the 1990s.

He said his objection to the Allied effort is “forcing something on someone that didn’t ask for it.”

Groseclose said there is no deadline for residents to opt out of the Allied recycling program.

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