Bowie Public Works Department employees regret that they sometimes have to leave trash sitting on the curb.
Prince George’s County started a new law in January that bans plastic bags from being used to collect yard waste, said Dan Layton, Bowie’s acting Public Works Department director.
Residents now must place the waste in paper bags or bins, which are purchased by the owner and labeled “yard waste” for pickup. Not every resident has caught on to the new rule, even though it is almost four months old, Layton said. Trash that does not meet the guidelines is not collected.
A small group either doesn’t know about the change or tries to “push the system,” Layton said.
“I think people just sort of forget we aren’t picking it up anymore,” Layton said.
Melvin Thompson, solid waste superintendent for Bowie, said he didn’t have any specific numbers of people who use plastic. His office gets occasional complaints.
Layton said he gets several calls a week after the Wednesday pickup from people questioning why their trash wasn’t collected.
Prince George’s officials instituted the ban to keep plastic out of the Yard Waste Composting Facility in Upper Marlboro, which composts waste and resells it as fertilizer, said Denice Curry, a planner with the county Department of Environmental Resources.
The bags initially were shredded and filtered out of the waste, but scraps of that plastic floated around the facility and littered the ground, Curry said. Now that the bags are banned, rogue plastic isn’t as much of a problem, she said.
“Plastic is such a dirge on the environment,” Curry said. “It makes much more sense to do something that is environmentally friendly. [Paper bags] can be composted right along with their content.”
Curry said Bowie isn’t the only place with stubborn or forgetful residents. She said the county regularly gets complaints from residents who don’t like the change or didn’t know about it, even though the county and cities mailed out details.
“Some people have very, very large lots and they say the costs of bags are prohibitive compared to plastic,” Curry said. “Other people say plastic holds up better in the weather and elements.”
Layton said waste wrapped in plastic will get left behind, but his office sends a worker to respond to individual complaints.
Curry said the county doesn’t impose any fines to residents or cities, but some homeowners’ associations may levy a fine to residents who don’t remove waste from the curb.
If people continue to not follow the rules, Bowie officials may not be able to keep up with the complaints, Layton said.
“If everybody did this, we can longer use the guys assigned to the building,” Layton said. “If [an employee] has to run five or six errands every day, he can’t do his other job.”