Commissioners should look ahead with recycling

April 02, 2012

This month, Keedysville became the fifth Washington County jurisdiction to adopt curbside recycling. So we take this opportunity to congratulate the town and to offer a gentle “ahem” to the county government, which continues to struggle with the issue.

Keedysville solved the problem, if a problem it be, with a simple solution: Twice-a-week trash collection was converted to one day for trash pick-up and one day for recycling.

Already, the town is reporting 60 percent compliance, which indicates that the people might be more ready for recycling than their governments give them credit for.

Perhaps the Boonsboro Town Council took notice of this.

Much of the push for recycling locally has its roots in Boonsboro, whose people celebrate their own Green Fest in May. On Monday, the council joined the new millennium — and five other local communities — and adopted curbside recycling. The longer the council dragged its feet, the more obvious and shameful its absence in the recycling fraternity would have become.

And speaking of shameful, we turn to Washington County, whose halting steps toward recycling become ever more indefensible each time a local council is able to figure out what the commissioners can’t.

Granted, recycling is easier to tackle in towns with dedicated trash pick-up. But to date, the county’s answer to recycling is to make curbside pick-up available, for a price, but allowing those who don’t want to recycle to opt out.

Worse, the county has been removing recycling bins from around the county, saying they are too costly or bothersome. And to top it off, the county will begin to charge for recyclables that citizens themselves drive to the county landfill.

In other words, the county seems to be going backward on the recycling issue.

While giving the county credit for trying, we can’t overlook this reality: People who voluntarily did the right thing are now being charged for being good environmental citizens, while the wasteful continue to get a free ride.

At every turn, the county says this: Recycling is a cost, and we do not believe it is a cost worth paying.

Of course recycling costs money. But so does throwing waste in the landfill.

The landfill is an enormous expense, not just the one in operation now, but, as we are learning, old landfills that leak. And future landfill space will be even more expensive, as environmental regulations toughen and total landfill space nationwide declines.

The landfill is not a static cost; it will grow ever more expensive. Yet, because it is there and always has been there, commissioners do not seem to see it in the same light as they do a “new” expense such as recycling.

The nuts and bolts of recycling as it stands at this moment in time can be debated, but this truth cannot: The more trash we can keep out of the landfill now, the better off we will be in the future. It would be good if the commissioners could look ahead on this issue, instead of continually gazing into the past.

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