For the past three weeks, the Marlow family has arisen every morning to carry their carefully bundled newspapers out to the curb in the Wood Acres subdivision of Bethesda to wait for the truck that never comes.
Each evening, they carry them back to the house where papers are stacked in ever-growing piles in the dining room and basement, the unwelcome product of a new Montgomery County recycling program.
The program was announced in early September in leaflets distributed to some 70,000 residents in the southern half of the county. In Bethesda, Kensington, Silver Spring, Potomac and elsewhere, the county announced its innovative plan to dispose of some of its 1,800 tons of trash and garbage residents throw out daily.
Reacting either to appeals to their better natures or to warnings of a $50 fine for failure to separate newspapers from trash and garbage, county residents responded with more paper than planners anticipated -- almost immediately throwing collections behind schedule, county officials said.
In some neighborhoods, such as Wood Acres, newspapers have gone uncollected ever since the program began. They have piled up on the curbs in front of high-priced homes, mildewing and moldering in the rains, blowing in the winds and yellowing in the sun.
"The best way to describe it is, we've been victimized by success," said county spokesman Charles Maier.
But some county residents feel victimized by their government.
"We don't know what to do with them," Bill Marlow said of the growing piles of paper. "We know that we're not supposed to put them in the trash for fear of being fined."
Marlow said he loaded his car with paper last Sunday and drove to two recycling centers the county used to operate. Both had been closed, he said.
"The idea was great, but they didn't have any organization," Marlow said of the new program.
"I thought it was simply wonderful to begin with," said Brigitte Meyer of 9515 Cable Dr. in Kensington."But it's turned into an absolute nightmare."
Meyer said that at about 150 homes in her neighborhood on streets such as Carriage, Culver and Cable drives, the papers have begun to unravel and take flight in the wind.
"Whenever I go outside, I run into neighbors who only want to talk about the papers," she said.
County trash collection officials said yesterday that the program is beginning to catch up with the uncollected papers. The county has a contract with a Columbia, Md., company, National Recovery Industry Inc., a nonprofit firm that employs the handicapped, to collect the papers. Since collections fell behind schedule, however, the county has added five trucks and crews of its own to the collection routes.
"I would hope, unless there's something we can't foresee, by the end of the week we should be on schedule, said George Pace, supervisor of the county's garbage and waste control inspectors, who have been working with the private firm.
Pace said that the recycling trucks had collected 400 tons of paper since the program began.
The program was designed, in part, to limit the amount of refuse going into county landfills. Finding landfill sites to dispose of the county's garbage has been a continuing headache for county officials. "We figured that by cutting out newspaper, we would relieve about 10 percent annually of the load going into the landfills," said Pace.