Prince George's County is looking to raise recycling targets -- with the threat of mandatory recycling if the county can't hit its self-imposed standards.
The recycling overhaul, which would set countywide goals of a 45 percent recycling rate by 2015, 55 percent by 2018 and 60 percent by 2020, goes before the County Council for a final decision on Tuesday.
The proposal also would require owners of apartments, condominiums, industrial properties and commercial buildings to provide recycling opportunities to tenants by 2014.
"It's about making it easier for people, making it more accessible," said Councilman Eric Olson, D-College Park. "If there wasn't an opportunity to recycle, you're going to have zero percent."
Olson introduced the bill with Councilwoman Mary Lehman, D-Laurel, and Councilman Will Campos, D-Hyattsville.
The county's recycling rate is 40 percent, according to the Maryland Department of the Environment. That puts the county ahead of Maryland's legal minimum -- currently 20 percent for a county the size of Prince George's -- but behind neighbors like Montgomery County, which has a recycling rate of 47 percent.
While Prince George's has a voluntary recycling program, Montgomery makes it mandatory. Residents who fail to separate recyclable items from their trash can be cited for violations. Montgomery recently raised its own standards -- the county is looking for a 70 percent recycling rate by 2020.
Bringing Prince George's to Montgomery's level doesn't require mandatory recycling -- it requires better public awareness, Olson said. "We have to do a better job in getting the word out to people," he said. "A lot of places are achieving these numbers."
Maryland Department of the Environment spokesman Jay Apperson said Prince George's was about average for the state.
"If you look at the rate for Prince George's County, it's right up there," he said. "For them to set a goal of 60 percent would be in keeping with the statewide goal."
The proposal also includes a composting pilot program that would go into limited use in 2014 then expanded countywide in 2015 with enough success.
"About 40 percent of what we throw out into the landfill right now is compostable," Olson said. "If we can keep a lot of that compostable matter out of the waste stream, it can save us an awful lot of money."