The Park Record editorial, February 22-24, 2012 | ParkRecord.com

The Park Record editorial, February 22-24, 2012

It's time to get serious about trash

A front page story about trash? Well, yes. One of the most important responsibilities of local government is ensuring that residents’ trash is removed regularly, efficiently and affordably. These days, we would also stipulate one more important criterion: in the most environmentally sustainable manner possible.

The issue is front and center on Summit County’s agenda because the current trash removal contract is about to expire and, before the council signs a new one that we will all have to live with for the next five years, they want to take a close look at their underlying garbage-collection policy.

If you think this is a trivial matter, consider the uproar that engulfed Summit County when today’s 96-gallon blue bins were introduced. Now they are a big (literally) part of our everyday lives.

Prior to the bins, residents provided their own containers: sheetrock buckets, empty dog-food bags, oil drums, Rubbermaid storage boxes, etc. The uniform bins allowed garbage haulers to automate pickup a shocking innovation at the time. Nevertheless, people fretted about the change. Many were hard pressed to find space for the giant cans in their garages; others said the receptacles were unsightly. The contractor ultimately offered a smaller brown bin for those people and the hue and cry quickly faded.

But now the County Council is considering another shift in our garbage-can feng shui. Yikes!

In its formal Request for Proposals inviting area garbage haulers to bid on providing the service to the county, the council is suggesting that residents receive two receptacles a 65-gallon can for non recyclables that would be picked up once a week AND a 96-gallon can for mixed recyclables that would be picked up in the county’s more populated areas once every two weeks.

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Uh oh.

The plan is aimed at encouraging residents to reduce their output of non-recyclable waste, and increase recycling a worthy goal. But we predict that taking up that much more real estate in the garage will not be popular.

It would be interesting to learn how many residents feel they need the blue behemoth at all. Scaling down the size of the current trash bin, and charging a higher fee for those who feel they must produce 96 gallons of trash a week, is both fair and a good deterrent against wanton waste. But we are unconvinced that residents need a giant barrel for their recyclables. It seems that many who currently participate in the county’s voluntary recycling program do perfectly well with County Curbside’s 18-gallon tote, or Allied Waste’s 65-gallon recycling container.

Yes, the county should expand curbside collection of recyclables, but in a more modest-sized bin.

Basically, the goal should be to lower overall waste output both recyclable and not. Distributing both a 96- and a 65-gallon garbage can to every household seems like an invitation to throw out more stuff, not less.