State Recycling Mandate Irks County

SNOW HILL – In spite of a pending state deadline, local officials opted not to adjust Worcester County’s recycling plan but instead will share their concerns with area politicians.

The majority of the Worcester County Commissioners voted last week not to amend the county’s Comprehensive Solid Waste Management Plan. A state-mandated amendment to address the issue of recycling at special events had been introduced by county staff.

“We are required by law to amend our Comprehensive Solid Waste Management Plan by Oct. 1,” John Tustin, the county’s director of public works, said.

Tustin proposed an amendment to the plan that, in accordance with the new state law (approved with the adoption of Senate Bill 781 in April 2014), would have required certain special events to offer recycling containers alongside garbage containers. The change would have affected special events that occur on publicly owned properties, those that serve food or drink and those that expect 200 or more attendees. Event organizers would be required to supply adequately marked recycling containers and to arrange for the collection of the recycling.

“It’s already state law,” Tustin said. “We’re just amending our plan to comply.”

Commissioner Joe Mitrecic, who represents voters in Ocean City, said officials in the resort were satisfied with Ocean City’s existing recycling program and did not support the bill. He said he would vote against it for that reason.

“They are very proud of the waste to energy program they’re involved in,” Mitrecic said. “They recycle 100 percent of trash they collect.”

Commissioner Merrill Lockfaw expressed concern over the fact that special event organizers, many of whom were members of nonprofit organizations, would face an added expense because of the law change.

“Some of these events, they don’t derive that much income from them,” he said.

Mitrecic criticized the new requirement.

“Once again, it’s people sitting in Annapolis putting undo hardships on a lot of nonprofits,” he said.

Commissioner Jim Bunting agreed.

“These events are a lot of times to raise money for nonprofits,” he said. “It’s just another burden put on them.”

Commissioner Ted Elder said he was reluctant to do so but made a motion to approve the amendment recommended by staff. When it failed, with just Elder, Diana Purnell and Lockfaw voting in favor of it, the commissioners agreed unanimously to send a letter to members of the shore delegation sharing concerns regarding the recycling requirement.

When contacted last week, Jay Apperson, a spokesman with the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE), said all counties and the City of Baltimore were required to amend their recycling plans by Oct. 1 to address recycling at special events.

“MDE has not received Worcester County’s amended recycling plan and cannot prejudge whether it would be approved,” he said in an email.

When asked what consequences Worcester County could face if it failed to submit the required amendment, Apperson cited Maryland law subsection 9-506(c). According to the law, MDE would give the county written notice of any inadequacies in its plan. If within 90 days of the notice the county does not submit an adequate revision of its plan, MDE shall give the county notice of its right to administrative review and appeal and may not issue any permit “to install or alter a water supply system, sewerage system, or solid waste disposal system in that county.”