In just over a week, large drive-up recycling bins in nine locations around Pike will be removed as the countywide recycling program ends.
Pennsylvania law does not require residents to recycle. Pike residents who wish to recycle must find an individual trash hauler that offers curb side recycling collection. Some folks will likely go back to throwing tin cans, plastic bottles and (gasp!) newspapers in the trash. Their cans will fill faster than before. So will the landfills accepting that waste.
Pennsylvania mandates that counties work toward a goal of 33 percent of all solid waste collected being recycled. Now it will be up to individual trash haulers who also collect recyclables to track that ratio.
In a victory for lazy environmentalists, Pike saw a 25 percent increase in recycling participation in 2011 when the county switched from requiring sorting of items, to single stream recycling which allowed users to dump boxes and bottles in the same bin.
Common sense predicts that recycling participation will go down without the bins because so many of us are still pretty lazy—I mean, busy. Yeah, let’s go with busy.
We are too busy to call the trash hauler and make arrangements for recycling service or too busy to sort the trash from recyclables when it is all going to the curb anyway.
If the disappearing bins annoy you, don’t blame the Pike County Commissioners who made the call to end the program.
Pike would not have likely started the recycling program in 2000 without the help of state grants.
With the grants and the sale of recycled items, the program profited $200,000 until 2009, when state funding for recycling dried up. At the same time, the price of recyclables plummeted in the resale market. In response, the county stopped operating its own program and contracted with Waste Management.
That was pricey.
In 2011, Pike paid Waste Management $627,000. With more bins placed around the county and single-stream recycling, collection increased by 25 percent from 2009 to 2010.
The recycling program was an effort to meet the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s requirement of 33 percent recycling.
Local politicians often complain about unfunded mandates from the state. Recycling was one of them. When the state requires municipalities or counties to meet a requirement, such as the 33 percent recycling goal, it translates to spending money. Unfunded mandates are good politics on the creator’s end. They get to say things like , “We made a law to increase recycling.” The political fallout happens at the local level where officials struggling with budgets deal with the consequences of mandates from above.
When the mess hits the fan, the local guys take it on the chin for taking away a service that never fit in the budget without state grants.
Filling landfills faster is dumb. Recycling is smart.
But just as the jobless person with a stack of bills might weed out paying for trash hauling service in favor of keeping the electric on another month, recycling has become expendable.