Do you have a background in enforcement and a willingness to roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty? Do you ever wish that a reluctant recycler would "make your day"?
Montgomery County may have just the job for you.
The county government is recruiting three recycling "investigators" who will help to ensure that Montgomery's residents and workers obey recycling regulations.
In the fiscal year that ended June 30, Montgomery recycled 37 percent of its garbage; now officials are making an extra push to meet a long-standing goal of recycling 50 percent. County officials say the effort is necessary to make sure that Montgomery does not generate more solid waste than its incinerator can handle.
People living in single-family residences recycled 51.4 percent of their garbage last year, a rate that meets Montgomery's goal. The county is now targeting those who live in apartment complexes and condominiums, who recycle less than 12 percent of their waste, and non-residential users -- mainly office workers -- who recycle 30.1 percent of their garbage.
In addition to distributing larger recycling bins to single-family residences, the county is also proposing to tighten regulations governing the placement of recycling containers at apartment complexes and businesses to make them more numerous and more convenient.
"We want to be flexible, but what we've found is in some cases there was a little too much flexibility," said Eileen Kao, the county's recycling coordinator. The result is the rule changes and the addition of the investigators, who will work with businesses and apartment managers to increase recycling rates.
Since 1993, the county has required businesses with more than 100 employees to submit annual plans detailing how they will recycle office paper, cardboard, newspapers, food and beverage containers, and yard trim. Smaller businesses have to recycle as well, but they need submit a plan only upon request from the county.
Montgomery's 30 percent non-residential recycling rate is a "phenomenal achievement," Kao said, but she added that the county needs to get businesses to do more toward meeting the 50 percent goal. The recycling investigators will work with Kao's existing staff of seven "program specialists" to promote compliance and will be able to issue notices of violation and citations to businesses and apartment complexes that do not heed the county's advice.
Kao shudders at hearing the investigators described as "police," saying that "our goal is to work hand in hand with the business community" and that her office does all that it can to educate non-residential users about recycling.
Even so, Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce President Richard N. Parsons said the county's new approach emphasizes the stick rather than the carrot.
"There's a lot more to be gained by providing incentives and outreach" to the business community, Parsons said. "We're not seeing much outreach to the business community by the county government. I think 'recycling police' is exactly the wrong direction to go if you want to solve the problem."
Among non-residential generators of garbage, he said, the county's businesses are better recyclers than government agencies and the nonprofit sector. Parsons suggested the county government should do a better job of recycling before going after the business community.
Kao said her office does not track non-residential recycled material according to its source. "The nature of trash collection being what it is," she said, "it's impossible for me to stratify it."
Neal Fitzpatrick, executive director of the Audubon Naturalist Society's mid-Atlantic branch, favors the county's plan. "It has not been tried yet; I think it should be implemented," he said.
To fill the investigator positions, Kao said, she is looking for people "with a demonstrated ability in analyzing situations, interpreting laws, . . . [who] can conciliate between the county and regulated parties."
She said the investigators would not be uniformed or armed.