Arlington County will begin its curbside collection recycling program Feb. 25 with a pilot plan that will involve 5,600 households and include the collection of newspaper, some cans, glass and plastic beverage containers.

The program, originally adopted by the County Board April 28 as part of the Recycling Program Implementation Plan, was delayed while the county waited for the delivery of two trucks to be used in the collection process.

"I think we've all been anxious to get started and felt a little frustrated that we weren't able to start curbside collection when we originally planned," said Jeffrey Harn, the county's senior environmental planner. "The curbside program is really the major element of our recycling plan."

The plan initially will involve five neighborhoods, comprising two regular refuse collection routes, whose demographics are believed to represent a valid cross-section of the county. Participation in the program is voluntary.

"I think the residents will get behind it and give it a real full effort," said Wayne Mollohan, a member of the Recycling Study Subcommittee that provided recommendations to the County Board.

Officials hope to provide curbside pickup for the entire county by the fall of 1992, but that will depend on how quickly the processing facilities develop. Virginia Department of Waste Management regulations require that 15 percent of the solid waste generated in the county be diverted by 1993 and 25 percent by 1995.

"This is a pilot program in the sense that it gives us a chance to try out the equipment, try out the collection procedures and to work out public education and publicity," Harn said. "It gives us a chance to refine the project before we go countywide."

According to Harn, the program will cost the county approximately $530,000 per year. Though the revenue generated by the sale of collected materials will fall short of the cost of collection, Harn says, state requirements and the environmental demands of the population have prompted the program.

"The bottom line is we want to increase participation. We're not in this to make money, it's to recycle materials and meet state requirements," he said.

About a week before the first collection, the county will deliver 18-gallon yellow containers to each participating household for storage of recyclable items. The bins will be emptied on the regular trash collection schedule. The truck drivers will sort the recyclable materials.

Households that are not participating in the program can continue to deposit materials at the multi-material recycling centers at Columbia Pike and South Four Mile Run Drive and at the Homeowners Refuse Transfer Center at 500 31st St. South. Five additional drop-off centers are scheduled to open in the next few months.

Ned Ruhe of Arlingtonians for a Clean Environment said he is "delighted" with the new program, but that he feels it is only the first step in a large recycling effort.

"If recycling programs are the tip of the iceberg in local communities, the pilot program is the tip of the iceberg of recycling programs," Ruhe said. "When they begin a partnership {between community groups, schools and government}, that is priming the pump for something much bigger."