Washington County needs to move on recycling

February 23, 2011

The recycling debate in Washington County and its towns calls to mind the decades-old effort to put fluoride in the drinking water. It’s probably a good idea, but there are still elements out there who believe it is a plot involving Soviet mind control.

Washington County has talked about curbside recycling for years. Like clockwork, the issue pops up before the commissioners on an annual basis, who agree that it’s time to do something about it — after just a little bit more study.

The time has come, we believe, when there simply isn’t anything more to be learned about the practice, which has been employed with good result in other communities dating back to the last millennium.

There are spits of arguments here and there against recycling that have some merit. Outside of metals such as aluminum, it is difficult to tell whether the costs and energy demands of recycling itself do or don’t outweigh the advantages. But to argue this is to suggest that science is static and that better and more efficient methods of recycling will never present themselves.

It also ignores some very real advantages that transcend, say, simply turning old paper into new paper. Specifically, we have seen in this community just how precious and expensive landfills can be.
Recycling saves considerable landfill space, and failure to recycle will surely have a negative impact on our tax bills when space issues in the current landfill become critical.

Also, many raw materials are finite. As we write this, commodity prices are escalating and suggest that anything we can do to ease the consumption of raw materials is probably a good idea.

As the world looks to become more sustainable in all of its activities, we suspect recycling will play a strong part well into the foreseeable future. No doubt, there are other intriguing options — a planned incinerator in Frederick County would turn waste into energy (a proposal on which we reserve judgment at this time). But we see no time that recycling will not be at least part of the puzzle.

As such, we believe it is time that Washington County moved forward with curbside recycling. Each year lost just adds that much more tonnage to our landfill, an expense for which there is no good reason.

Communities in neighboring Pennsylvania and West Virginia have been collecting curbside recyclables for years, and it’s time Washington County joins the effort.
We also applaud the efforts of towns such as Boonsboro and Smithsburg, which are attempting to move recycling forward. It’s a new way of doing things, yes, but we believe on the whole it is for the best, and that once employed, it will soon become second nature.

Smithsburg Town Council Vice President Donnie Souders Jr. put it well when, in a recent letter to the editor, he suggested that “The success of these services … can only succeed if all residents are educated, involved and willing to embrace change.”

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