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County to expand recycling program

For Janet Dalcherone, the issue of recycling comes down to the jars of baby food that make up much of her everyday garbage. Each day, she washes them out and puts them in a special bin. Once a week, a collector comes and takes them, along with her family's newspapers and aluminum cans, to be reused as part of the county's fledgling curb-side recycling program.

"I have two small children, and I want the environment to be good for them when they're my age," the Carrollwood resident said. "So I recycle. I feel good about it."

This week, 26,000 more homes will get the chance to share in that feeling.

Selected homes in Carrollwood, Town 'N Country, Thonotosassa, Seffner, Brandon, Bloomingdale, Sun City Center and Apollo Beach will join the 12,000 already participating in the voluntary curb-side recycling program in an effort to increase recycling to the state-mandated level by 1994.

Government proclamations aside, concerns about waste, overburdened landfills and a fragile environment have fueled what has become one of the hottest causes in town.

"It's in the forefront," said Gretchen Fulmer, who coordinates Hillsborough's recycling program. "It's an election year. You had Earth Day, which got a lot of people riled up, and now they're looking for ways to be part of the solution."

Since the program began in June 1989, 65 percent of the households chosen for curb-side service have participated, a rate considered high in a voluntary program.

A little suburban peer pressure may be involved.

"It's very impressive to see all these containers out on your street that say "We Recycle' _ kind of a status symbol," Fulmer said. "And if a whole row of people recycle and one doesn't, it kind of sticks out like a sore thumb."

Each participant gets a 14-gallon container _ made of recycled plastic, naturally _ from the garbage hauler. Residents load their aluminum cans and clear and colored glass bottles and jars in the container, which is picked up from the curb once a week.

Newspapers placed in separate bundles also are carted away to be used again.

"We had to stop and think about separating things out at the beginning," said Gretchen Lasasso of Carrollwood. "Now we're used to it. Even the kids know to put the soda cans in a certain place."

Ely Weaver, who participated in mandatory recycling programs in New Jersey, was happy to get curb-side service here. "I've always been for using what can be reused," she said.

The value of recycling has become sufficiently well-known to attract late-night scavengers, who steal aluminum cans from the curb-side bins, presumably to sell them privately.

"We haven't done much about it," Fulmer said. "At least it's getting recycled."

That's important for Florida counties, which, by law, must be recycling 30 percent of their waste by 1994.

Hillsborough is adding 26,000 homes to the curb-side program Thursday. Another 34,000 will be added in May and another 60,000 by November 1991 for a total 132,000 homes.

Households in Sun City Center and Apollo Beach also will be able to recycle plastic beverage containers as part of an experimental program to see whether the process proves cost-effective.

The curb-side program costs $250,000 a year. With all of unincorporated Hillsborough participating by late 1991, it's expected to cost more than $1-million a year, Fulmer said.

For now, that expense isn't being passed on to residents. The program is paid for by a state grant and a county reserve fund, but that money is limited. Hillsborough commissioners eventually must decide how to pay for recycling.

In the meantime, newcomers are enthusiastic. For Margaret Lovejoy, recycling has been part of her children's learning process.

"My children save aluminum cans," she said. "They do it for pocket money, believe it or not."

Big businesses, including Tampa General Hospital and Tampa Electric Co., already have gotten into the recycling act, with programs to recycle scrap paper from their offices. In the county courthouse, workers have recycled 334 tons of paper since 1988.

"That's effectively 5,683 trees," said Jerry Snow, Hillsborough County waste reduction specialist.

Others have taken it on as a personal cause.

"Everyone in our office who drinks out of aluminum cans knows to come by and put them in the box," said Carol Hines-Cobb, a University of South Florida secretary. "I read something in a magazine that said we throw away enough to rebuild our commercial air fleet every three months. If we can recycle enough to build an airplane, what the heck."

For some, the efforts are nothing new. Claywell Elementary School teacher Janette Thibodeau has taught the value of reusing aluminum cans for 20 years.

"The children bring in cans, and they use them in place of money to buy things in our little store," she said. Students follow the market, learn about supply and demand, and, most of all, appreciate the value of using things more than once, she said.

"At one time, nobody thought to pick up a can. It just went into the trash, and that was it," she said. "People looked at me like, "What are you doing, lady?'

"These kids know now that every can they bring in is used almost in its entirety again and again and again," she said.

Recycling Fair

A Countywide Recycling Fair will be held at the Brandon Park and Recreation Center, 510 E Sadie St., on Saturday. Students, county officials and businesses will have exhibits on subjects ranging from backyard composting to what manufacturers can do to limit excess packaging. For information, call 272-6674.