A good start for curbside recycling plan

February 06, 2012

Since the Washington County Commissioners sort of endorsed curbside recycling, we will sort of endorse the commissioners’ decision.

The county has been considering, but not acting, on recycling for some time, so any move in that direction is an improvement. The commissioners decided Tuesday to promote a private curbside recycling program that Allied Waste will tentatively begin in June. At the same time, the county will remove recycling drop boxes that have suffered from misuse and neglect.

It’s hard to be certain that the county got the best deal for its residents, since the program was not subjected to the bidding process. Since there is no county outlay of funds, bids were not a requirement, but some form of competition still might have been a good idea.

Allied will offer biweekly, single-stream recycling this summer for a presumably small fee to participate. The fee has not been set.

Recycling advocates are unlikely to be satisfied by the county’s decision; recycling as a concept really works best when economies of scale come into play. Certainly to take a dent out of landfill usage, a majority will have to participate.

But there is some sense to the county’s plan. First, something is better than nothing, and it pays to at least give residents an option.

We suspect that recycling is something that many would not go too far out of their way to do, but if offered at curbside for a nominal fee they will take advantage of the program. (And we would encourage those who are on the fence to participate.)

Second, while many in this community are still struggling financially, it might indeed be best if those who are strapped for money have a chance to opt out.

And finally, this “break-in period,” for those who want to look at it this way, might be an avenue to show residents that recycling is not hard, not expensive and nothing to fear. Once recycling becomes commonplace, the more likely it is to become, well, commonplace.

While we might have preferred for the county to take a decisive stand on recycling, this more measured approach is one we can support for now, as long as the county is not under the illusion that this half-measure somehow settles the issue forevermore.

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