|Declining Recycling Rates|
by Moshe Cohen 8/22/07
Declining Recycling Rates; We Need Leadership. Recycling rates have been declining in Morris County, from a peak of 64.6% in 1997 to 53.6% in 2004. The Morris County Municipal Utilities Authority wants to reverse the trend and bring Morris County into compliance with state-mandated goals. I certainly agree with the goal, but I have doubts about how they plan to achieve it. The MCMUA enforcement office will inspect regular trash for recyclable materials. The inspection will take place at the transfer stations and is aimed at the haulers.
Although it is illegal to put certain recyclable materials in regular trash, the solution is to make it easy for the waste generators to comply with the law, not to threaten the waste haulers. The Morris County Board of Chosen Freeholders will have to take the lead in finding sensible, creative ways to improve recycling rates. In a December 29, 2006 report, the Government Accountability Office (GAO), an investigative arm of Congress that audits and evaluates the performance of the federal government, released a report entitled “Recycling: Additional Efforts Could Increase Municipal Recycling.”
According to the report, the three practices cited most often by recycling professionals across the country were: (1) making recycling convenient and easy for their residents, (2) offering financial incentives for recycling, and (3) conducting public education and outreach. I support all three. At the last Freeholders’ meeting, I urged the Freeholders to review the policy of collecting hazardous waste only in inconvenient locations and only approximately twice a year. If you participated in this waste drop-off ordeal, you understand well what I mean by inconvenience.
I propose that such waste (often just an empty propane container or a can of oil-based paint) be collected at each municipal recycling center and picked up by the MUA. The minimal cost that this will entail dwarfs the cost of hazardous waste in our trash and the moral impact on law-abiding citizens so inconvenienced that they commit infractions. I will cite one of many other examples. In my town of Randolph, grass clippings can be brought to the recycling center on the weekend only. If you mow your own lawn on Monday because the weekend is rainy, you have to store the clippings for a week. Your home/garage becomes the “recycling center.”
We have many dedicated folks, young and old, who care about quality of life in Morris County. They will gladly volunteer their time and efforts to make this place a better place to live. Provide the leadership and you will get the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts to help, high school and college students through their clubs, seniors and ordinary citizens. Don’t pass off your responsibilities to the waste haulers! The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has programs that create voluntary partnerships with groups such as universities and businesses. They offer competitive grants for projects that encourage recycling. Such grants can provide the seed money for volunteer groups and organizations. Take advantage of it.
Finally, the Freeholders can encourage municipalities to share their best practices and learn from others across the country. This is called leadership. That’s why I am running for election to the Morris County Board of Chosen Freeholders.