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Burying your tax dollars with trash at the landfill

July 15, 2008|By BOB MAGINNIS

If you'd like to find out why Washington County is burying 100,000 tons of waste per year at the landfill, go out one day and watch the people emptying their vehicles into the big bins.

I've been doing it, usually on Saturday mornings, for the past 25 years. What I see is that too many people don't bother to sort their household waste.

The main offender? Corrugated cardboard. Though the transfer stations and the main landfill have bins for recycling, many permit holders just dump cardboard in with the rest of the trash. Many don't even bother to break down the boxes.

A secondary concern is the number of people who are obviously hauling for everyone in their neighborhood. Yes, every once in a while, I take a bag or two for my mother-in-law, but that's twice a year at most. People who arrive each week with more than a dozen 30-gallon bags are, I suspect, doing "favors" for their neighbors.

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What's my solution? While the county government waits for the results of a $150,000 consultant study of its waste stream, why not use inmate labor to stand at the bins and tell those with cardboard boxes that they need to be recycled?

Sheriff Doug Mullendore recently said he's looking for a way to deal with overcrowding at the detention center. Instead of a day reporting system, assign some nonviolent offenders to bin duty.

As for those who are hauling trash for everyone on the block, why not issue tickets with the license renewal? You'd get, let's say, four per week and if you wanted to use one to haul grandma's trash, that would be up to you.

And, if grandma wanted that service done on a regular basis, let her buy her own permit and give you her tags so you can transport her stuff.

Why is this such a big deal? After all, you might say, it's only a garbage dump.

Operating a landfill costs plenty these days. The winning bid for the "cell" approved in 2004 by the county commissioners was $5.2 million.

At the time, County Engineer Terry McGee said that the previous cell had been expected to last three or four years, but would probably be filled in 2 1/2 years.

If the old cell was filled before the new one was ready, McGee said, the county might have to truck trash elsewhere, at an additional cost.

Doing nothing will guarantee that the annual cost of permits will continue to increase. Or worse, the county government will come up with a system more cumbersome than the one I've proposed.

So, yes, learn to sort and recycle. You're not getting away with anything if not doing the right thing costs you additional tax dollars.

Editor's note: Last week I wrote a column in which I said that this presidential election was historic, because it is the first time an African-American is one of the nominees.

Letters about Barack Obama should argue policy, not repeat some unverified stuff from a Web site.

A caller asked whether we would apply the same standard to letters about John McCain. Yes, we will.

I'm holding a letter now that contains charges about McCain that I haven't been able to verify. I will contact the writer to try to do so.

So, if you want to write about either candidate, please cite your sources. In this case, "everybody knows that" .. isn't good enough.

Bob Maginnis is editorial page editor of The Herald-Mail newspapers.

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