City’s crucial recycling exemption to be heard

(March 29, 2013) Ocean City will be facing a crucial decision in the Maryland House of Delegates this week, as hearings are held on a bill to grant the resort an exception to state recycling policies that could be a major drain on the resort economy.

Senate Bill 1049, sponsored by Sen. Jim Mathias, has passed the upper body and was slated to be first heard in the house on April 4. The bill would amend the state’s environmental code to stipulate that “certain provisions of law requiring a certain property owner or manager of an apartment building or a council of unit owners of a condominium to provide for recycling for its residents do not apply in Ocean City.”

Under a policy passed by the state legislature last spring, and scheduled to be enforced as of this October, all apartment buildings and condominiums with more than 10 units must provide for the collection, removal, and recycling of recyclable materials, or face a fine of $50 per day of violation. This fine would be levied on the property owner – either an individual or a condominium association – or the responsible property manager.

The Town of Ocean City, however, does not offer traditional curbside recycling services. Several years ago, the city eliminated its recycling pickup and instead sends all its trash and garbage, not to a landfill, but to an incinerator plant in Pennsylvania, where it is burned to power electricity-generating turbines.

“What we’re doing may not be the ideal situation as far as the state’s concerned, but if you look at it in reverse and look at other counties that recycle in the traditional way… they recycle 15 to 20 percent glass and cardboard, and the rest is going to the landfill,” said city Public Works Director Hal Adkins. “Ours doesn’t.”

Because Ocean City uses a waste-to-energy system, Mayor Rick Meehan said he was led to believe last year that systems such as the resort’s would be exempt from the new state recycling mandate. However, the policy to be enacted later this year has no such exemption.

“I thought we had gotten Ocean City exempted … but I looked again and that’s not the case,” Meehan said at a recent City Council meeting.

“Because we do not recycle in the traditional manner, but through waste-to-energy, we’ll be testifying to get an exception.”

As such, Mathias is sponsoring legislation that introduces such an exemption clause. Although the bill was originally written to exempt any municipality or county that offers a waste-to-energy program, the current iteration of the bill has been amended to specifically exempt Ocean City and no one else.

If the exemption is not well received, it could mean that the city’s property owners would have to arrange for private recyclables collection at their own expense.

“They’d have to find space on their properties, likely have to increase their dues, and then arrange for a contractor to come in and take it to the recycling site,” Adkins said.

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