Editorial: Aggressive effort needed on recycling

Staff Writer
Mount Shasta Herald

A growing “green” consciousness across America and continued public investment at the state and local levels means that everyone needs to become much more aggressive when it comes to obeying recycling laws. 

That includes everyone from individual residents and large institutions to the haulers, all of whom have been required for the past 20 years to separate recyclables from trash in an effort to cut down on solid waste. 

Last week, several recycling programs in Oneida County received nearly $430,000 from the state Department of Environmental Conservation – part of $26 million in recycling grants awarded throughout the state for municipal waste reduction, recycling and composting programs. The grants, provided through the DEC’s Municipal Waste Reduction and Recycling grant program, provides up to 50 percent reimbursement to local governments for eligible projects. 

But despite the continued commitment of public funding to improve our environment, recycling law compliance is lagging. An O-D Viewpoints report last April found that many area schools, of all places, are not obeying the law, and even a cursory peek into roadside trash bins would indicate that recycling still is not a priority for many people. 

Yet it is critical to our future. In its January issue, National Geographic magazine cites an international study published last year by a British group, The Waste & Resources Action Programme, in which researchers compared more than 180 municipal waste management systems. That study found that recycling proved better for the environment than burying or burning waste in 83 percent of the cases. 

“Recycling … not only conserves natural resources and reduces the amount of waste that must be burned or buried, it also reduces pollution and the demand for energy,” the National Geographic report said. 

Some efforts are being made. Hans Arnold, executive director of the Oneida-Herkimer Solid Waste Authority, said that as a result of the lax school efforts, his agency plans to hire a fulltime staffer this year who’ll work exclusively with schools on recycling, including classroom presentations, waste audits and proper disposal methods. A second initiative will be to create a food waste composting program with area colleges. Such programs are being developed nationwide, Arnold said, and can be one more way to reduce solid waste. 

In the meantime, everyone has a responsibility not only to obey the law, but to make sure others are in compliance, too. Arnold said the authority will act on complaints — most are made against larger institutions that mix recyclables with trash — but anyone who spots a violation should report it. Arnold said angry residents sometimes turn in haulers who occasionally might mix recyclables with trash, and such complaints will be investigated.

Residential enforcement is more difficult, although any law enforcement official can write a ticket if violations are found. That could become costly for taxpayers, but dumping recyclables into landfills could eventually prove much more costly for future generations.