Every once in a while, along with the regular trash pickup, comes Daryl Braithwaite -- sifting through garbage and looking for an offending bottle or can.

Braithwaite, Takoma Park's recycling coordinator, acknowledges that periodic peeks into strangers' garbage isn't her favorite part of the job. But, it is necessary, she said, to make sure the 4,100 households ordered to participate in the city's year-old recycling program are doing their part.

"You can just bang a bag on the ground {to} see if there's glass in it," Braithwaite said.

"I've gotten pretty good at it."

Takoma Park is a leader in the region in recycling efforts. Prince George's County is phasing in a more modest recycling program, and starting Monday, Montgomery County's newspaper recycling expands to include two-thirds of the county's households.

The Takoma Park program requires all city residents -- except those in high-rise apartments -- to separate newspapers, glass bottles and aluminum cans from their regular trash. This month, residents also began separating cardboard, tin and yard waste.

Takoma Park officials say they are pleasently surprised that residents have taken to the recycling routine; in a given week, 88 percent of them comply with the law.

Takoma Park's success in encouraging residents to change their habits may be attributed to the community's small size, Braithwaite said, or its spirit.

Although hundreds of reminder notices, first warnings and second warnings have been issued, only four people have been slapped with the $20 fine that accompanies repeated violations.

Mayor Stephen J. Del Giudice said the participation rate has been "beyond our expectations" and may have been helped by the city's younger homeowners, who grew up with the environmental movement.

Del Giudice said that along with the obvious environmental benefits, the city is saving money.

For many communities, as with Takoma Park, the driving force behind recycling has been the financial savings that come with dumping fewer tons of trash in county landfills.

As available landfill space dries up, costs to dump trash in Montgomery and Prince George's counties escalate.

The city last year sent 5,000 tons of waste to landfills, dumping fees totaling $250,000, Braithwaite said.

By separating newspaper, glass and aluminum, the city recycled 1,150 tons and saved $49,000 in dumping fees for the period of April 1989 to March 1990.

In the coming year, Braithwaite said, the city will stop taking household appliances to the landfill, and Takoma Park will be removing 35 to 37 percent of the materials it once sent to be dumped.

While the city expected start-up costs associated with its recycling program to break even after 18 months, it is showing a profit 14 months into the project.

The city makes some money on the recycling, Braithwaite said. Glass, alumininum and tin aren't sold, but the city realizes a savings because they are not added to the weight of materials sent to the landfills.

In the coming year, Del Giudice said the city may add plastics to the list of items residents must set aside for recycling, and if that happens, Braithwaite will be ready.

"People for the most part are very willing to do this," Braithwaite said.

"But, if they need some reminding, I'm here."