An experimental recycling program at four Giant Food stores in Maryland has become the victim of its own success.

The supermarket chain said it is ending its collection of plastic bottles and metal cans at those stores today because it cannot keep up with the amount of recyclable refuse that comes in and because of the litter around the parking lot receptacles.

Giant began collecting bottles and cans at two stores in Montgomery County and two in Prince George's County about 10 weeks ago.

It had arranged to have Laidlaw Industries Inc. pick up the discarded cans and bottles once a week.

That soon became twice weekly and finally daily.

Giant had purchased six igloo-style containers, planning to use two of them as spares.

"We ended up bringing in the two additional igloos and they were still overflowing," said Giant spokesman Barry Scher. "We decided it was just not working."

In addition to the bottles and cans for which the receptacles were designed, customers also left old clothes, grass clippings and even furniture in the parking lots near the receptacles, he said.

"It created a real serious problem for us in keeping the area clean," Scher said.

"It just goes to show what a crying need there is for opportunities for people to recycle," said Jeanne Wirka of Environmental Action Inc.

Scher said that Giant intends to continue other recycling efforts.

The company announced May 15 that it would begin collecting plastic grocery bags and other products made of plastic film for recycling.

That program will be expanded from 30 stores to 50 next week and eventually to all stores, Scher said.

In addition, Giant is working with Prince William and Arlington counties in Virginia to set up collection programs.

Under those programs, the counties would own and service the collection receptacles.

"We're going to continue testing the program, and we'll see what happens," Scher said.

The program in Maryland "was very successful. It clearly demonstrates that the public wants to recycle and wants the convenience, and we're going to try to answer that call -- but by working with the counties," he said.