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Recycling vs. landfills

October 20, 2009

One of the stumbling blocks for curbside recycling in Daviess County has been the potential cost to residents.

A show of support by curbside recycling supporters at a Daviess Fiscal Court meeting in September 2008 showed several county commissioners balking at the idea due to what it would cost individuals and households.

A truck dumping a load at the Grimes Avenue transfer station.  (Messenger-Inquirer Photo)

A truck dumping a load at the Grimes Avenue transfer station. (Messenger-Inquirer Photo)

Commissioner Mike Riney said the ideas was worth exploring, but should be cost-effective.

“The economy is not conducive (for) putting another fee on residents,” Riney said.

An article in the New York Times today shows that some communities are shifting to more aggressive recycling programs to keep costs low. Money spent on recycling programs helps reduce the strain on the local landfills and over time keeps costs of acquiring more landfill space or dealing with methane lower, the people of Nantucket and other communities decided.

From the Times article by Leslie Kaufman

The town, with the blessing of residents concerned about tax increases, mandates the recycling of not only commonly reprocessed items like aluminum, glass and paper but also tires, batteries and household appliances.

Jim Lentowski, executive director of the nonprofit Nantucket Conservation Foundation and a year-round resident since 1971, said that sorting trash and delivering it to the local recycling and disposal complex had become a matter of course for most residents.

The complex also has a garagelike structure where residents can drop off books and clothing and other reusable items for others to take home.

The 100-car parking lot at the landfill is a lively meeting place for locals, Mr. Lentowski added. “Saturday morning during election season, politicians hang out there and hand out campaign buttons,” he said. “If you want to get a pulse on the community, that is a great spot to go.”

Mr. Willett said that while the amount of trash that island residents carted to the dump had remained steady, the proportion going into the landfill had plummeted to 8 percent.

Of course, Daviess County is not Nantucket. The cost of expanding a landfill would be significantly lower here than on that island community, where trash would need to be shipped to the mainland.

But the point remains that choosing not to recylce does carry costs over the long term for a community. It’s not an issue of paying a curbside recycling fee or paying nothing. It’s a choice of where that money will be used to manage trash, not whether.

Some cities are going several steps further to implement composting programs and the use of biodegradable products. While there have been advances and more community acceptance of recycling and the costs of trash, the Times article notes that it takes time for that change in mindset to filter down to the household level.

Again, from The Times article –

“Technology exists, but a lot of education still needs to be done,” said Mr. Jon D. Johnston, a materials management branch chief for the Environmental Protection Agency.

He expects private companies and businesses to move faster than private citizens because momentum can be driven by one person at the top.

“It will take a lot longer to get average Americans to compost,” Mr. Johnston said. “Reaching down to my household and yours is the greatest challenge.”

One Comment
  1. Ed Marksberry permalink
    October 21, 2009 8:15 am

    I feel like the issue of curbside recycling deserves a fair unbiased study. That doesn’t seem possible given the county solid waste coordinator involved to study the issue has publicly indicated his views of not needing curbside recycling and how he viewed it as being forced upon residents. Additionally the council/committee has not met but once in a year as the article states.
    Would the Fiscal Court and DC- Sweep council members consider a City-County joint effort of applying for Energy Reduction Conservation Stimulus block grant monies that are available and qualify towards the start-up capital expenses of buying curbside recycling equipment?
    Lastly, instead of a committee visit to our local landfill, would the committee consider a visit to one of the twenty plus Kentucky towns that have a thriving curbside recycling program? (Possibly a volunteer program that is not forced on residents as mentioned in the newspaper comments…)

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