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Who knew that the desire to recycle in Charles County was hindered only by the size of the recycling containers?

Since new, 95-gallon reycling carts were delivered to homes that participate in the county’s curbside recycling program in October and November, the amount of recyclables collected has doubled, county officials said.

The increase in recycling also is attributed to a 7 percent increase in the number of homes participating in the program, according to figures released by the county.

In December, the county collected 654 tons of recyclables; 292 tons were collected in September.

“I think Charles County is a leader in recycling for two reasons — the leadership role of our recycling staff and demand for it from residents,” Commissioner Ken Robinson (D) said, adding that the county’s recycling program has expanded each year since the current board of commissioners was elected.

Robinson was instrumental, he said, in 2011 in encouraging the county’s recycling program to accept electronics.

Distributing the 95-gallon carts for recycling was the right decision, Robinson said.

“Absolutely. There’s no question about it. It makes it so much easier for our residents,” he said. The carts are easier to transport and provide more space for recycling.

The new carts replaced 18-gallon bins residents used since the county’s recycling program began in 1994.

Dennis Fleming, chief of the county’s environmental resources division, said the new carts made it possible for additional items to be recycled, such as paper, cardboard and plastic. For Fleming, to see the numbers in the amount of recycling in the county double means one thing.

“It means that the carts were a smashing success,” Fleming said.

Fleming said the environmental resources division presented the idea of the new carts to the county commissioners in September 2012.

“We were just following the trend,” he said of recycling efforts across the country. Fleming said it is the division’s responsibility to stay informed of what’s happening in the industry.

Frances Sherman, the county’s recycling superintendent, said the local recycling program has lost less than 1.5 percent of its participants in the curbside recycling program since the new carts were introduced, but the program has gained more participants, including residents who had not participated before. She said some residents have even asked for a second cart.

Sherman said when the new carts were introduced she expected tonnage of recycling to increase but not double. The results have “far exceeded any of my expectations,” she said.

The increased response to the program and the negative feedback of letters to the Maryland Independent were not anticipated by Fleming.

Nora Robertson of La Plata wrote a letter voicing her opposition to the new, larger carts.

“I think [the new cart] works really well for those in the subdivisions,” said Robertson, who wrote that she had participated in the county’s recycling program since 1994.

She said she understands the bigger carts hold more than the bins, but her driveway on Ripley Road off of Hawthorne Road is 1,000 feet long. The bins are easier for her to put in her car and drive to the end of her driveway. She said she cannot pull the cart to the end of her driveway or put it in her car, and the point of her letter was that residents should be able to use both the bins and the cart.

Robertson said she has been recycling all of her life and will not stop recycling, but her only choice now is to collect recyclables in two bins and a couple of boxes and take them to the landfill.

She said she goes to the landfill at least once a week with cardboard, bottles, glass and tin cans collected by the four people living in her household.

“Anything that is recyclable, we recycle,” Robertson said. “I’m very conscientious about that.”

Letters of support for the new carts also were received by the Independent, including letters from Desi Beam and Judy Schroeder.

“I had to write a letter because I wanted them to know not everybody was dissatisfied,” said Beam, who lives in the Carrington neighborhood in Waldorf near Dr. Gustavus Brown Elementary School. Beam said she had never written a letter to the editor before, but after the second letter voicing opposition to the carts, she felt she had to write.

Beam said four people live in her household, and her family has participated in the county’s recycling program since January 1998. Her family filled two bins every other week, “and they still weren’t enough.” The family recycles a lot of cardboard, plastic and newspaper inserts.

“I love the fact that [the new cart is] so big,” Beam said. She said she has never had a bad experience with the county’s recycling program and does not dislike anything about the new carts.

Judy Schroeder lives in Newtown Estates, just outside of La Plata. She and her husband moved into the neighborhood in the 1980s and have participated in the county’s recycling program since 1994.

Before the new carts, Schroeder said she and her husband were using two bins to recycle newspaper, catalogues, cardboard and plastic bottles. She said if rain were forecasted or it already was raining the night before collection day, then she would not set the bins out so the recyclables would not get wet. The bins also were difficult to transport to the end of her 120-foot driveway.

“The fact that [the new carts] roll makes it much easier,” Schroeder said. She added that her daughter, who lives in Anne Arundel County, received a cart a couple of years ago, and Schroeder “thought it would be really nice if we had a cart.”

Schroeder said she doesn’t dislike anything about her new cart.

“It was very interesting to see the number of people who were outraged by the carts,” Schroeder said. In her neighborhood, she now has seen people recycling who never recycled before.

The increase in recycling participation also has meant a necessary increase in service, Fleming said, “because participation is so high and volumes are so high.” When the county rebids for a recycling provider in July, Fleming said the hope is to gain more routes and more service providers.

Recycling in the county’s program currently is collected four days a week on a rotating schedule, which means each area or neighborhood’s recycling is collected every other week. Sherman said after July’s rebid some areas might see a change in collection days. The division will notify residents of changes through mailings and press releases, but changes will be as minimal as possible, Sherman said.

She said the division is looking to expand collection areas.

“It’s kind of amazing how much is eligible [for recycling] in the recycling cart and how fast it fills,” Fleming said.

The recycling program and the increased density of the landfill has made it possible for the county’s landfill to go beyond its expected capacity date, Fleming said.

“Although recycling is a big driver,” Fleming said.

The landfill opened in 1994 and was expected to reach capacity in 2006, but is only half full eight years later.

Fleming said this also is due to the fact that the engineer’s expectation was for the landfill to hold 800 pounds per cubic yard of waste, but the division set and reached a goal of 1,200 pounds per cubic yard. Also, a lot of the trash generated in the county is transported to landfills outside the county at the waste collection firm’s discretion.

rbarnabi@somdnews.com