Marcia Mulquin, a part-time nurse and full-time mother, had a lot of things on her mind. Recycling wasn't one of them.

But now that Montgomery County has expanded its curbside recycling collection to her neighborhood, the Gaithersburg resident diligently separates her newspapers and places her lawn clippings in biodegradable bags, leaving them on the curb every Thursday.

"I probably wouldn't have done anything about {recycling}, to tell you the truth," Mulquin said as she held her 20-month-old daughter, Christine. "But when it is presented to you in such a convenient manner, you are a more active participant."

"Isn't that awful?" she added.

On July 2, Mulquin and 80,000 Montgomery County residents were added to the county's newspaper recycling program. With the expansion of the program, which includes all single-family houses and town houses, county officials hope to get two-thirds of the county -- or about 155,000 households -- recycling newsprint.

County officials also have asked about 55,000 households in the midcounty to bag leaves and grass clippings in decomposable 30-gallon paper bags, which they have to purchase, for separate curbside pickup. Grass clippings account for about 30 percent of residential waste from spring through fall.

Changing people's habits, especially how they dispose of their trash, is not always an easy task, said Department of Environmental Protection spokeswoman Esther Bowring, who observed: "People are very emotional about their garbage."

Montgomery County has collected newspapers for more than 10 years from the curbs of 80,000 houses in the lower eastern part of the county, which includes Silver Spring, Bethesda and several neighborhoods outside Rockville.

Fairfax County and the District of Columbia also require newspaper recycling; Prince George's County has glass, aluminum and newspaper curbside pickup in selected municipalities and incorporated areas; and Arlington has public drop-off sites, according to the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments.

In Montgomery, newspaper separation is mandatory under county law and violations are punishable by fines. But county officials stress that compliance is voluntary.

Thus, to cajole, inspire and inform new recyclers, the county launched a $100,000 advertising and education campaign. The campaign consisted of eye-catching door hangers informing residents of their pickup date; a recycling starter kit with a free paper bag; and radio, print and movie ads.

The outreach efforts seem to be paying off. After one month, at least half of the residents in the expanded area are recycling, adding 786 tons of newsprint to the county's total for July, according to Bowring.

"A 50 percent rate for a brand-new program is really, really good," Bowring said. About 65 percent of the households in the original curbside pickup area recycle newspapers, she said.

The county has no data on how many tons of lawn clippings and leaves it has collected at this time.

"We're really excited about this recycling stuff," said Linda O'Leary, of Montgomery Village. A second-grade teacher at Strawberry Knoll in Gaithersburg, O'Leary said her enthusiasm for recycling increased during a vacation to Canada last year, where she saw recycling bins for cans, glass and newspapers on the streets of Ottawa.

"Why can't we do the same thing?" she said.

Ironically, most of the initial problems with the recycling expansion have not been with the residents' compliance, as feared, but with the trash pickup itself.

But Edward U. Graham, director of the Department of Environmental Protection, said that problems such as missed pickups occurred because the trash contractor, Laidlaw Waste Systems Inc., was unfamiliar with the areas. Most of the "glitches" have been worked out of the system, he said. "Knock on wood, we're past all that."