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Alone With J

January 31, 2013

By J SWYGART
    When it comes to curbside recycling, the old axiom of “be careful what you ask for, because you just might get it” might indeed come into play.
    Depending on whom you choose to believe, there may or may not be a current groundswell of grassroots support for curbside recycling programs brewing throughout the communities of Adams County.
    The issue was touched upon briefly by members of the Adams County Solid Waste Management District’s board of directors during their meeting Tuesday. Board members stressed that they’re willing to listen to any and all options, suggestions and recommendations when it comes to curbside recycling. But some members left little doubt that the challenges and obstacles to creating such a program are many and varied.
   “It’s labor intensive, and it’s expensive to put (curbside recycling programs) into place,” said Attorney Tim Baker, who serves as legal counsel for the solid waste board. “There are a lot of factors that must be looked at, some of which potentially could have an adverse effect on the revenues received by the solid waste district,” he said.
   County solid waste district director Hank Mayer said he recently made a journey into the world of Facebook to check out a thread which he had been informed was the impetus behind the local curbside recycling movement.
    It was Mayer’s first-ever encounter with Facebook, and by his own admission he hopes it will be his last. But after reading some of the 100-plus comments on the site (which he did not name specifically) the solid waste director remained skeptical about the alleged widespread support for such types of programs.
    Baker said curbside recycling, if implemented, would likely be done on a community-by-community basis. The county would be reduced to a back seat role in the process, he said, and rural county residents could bear the financial brunt should such programs be launched in Decatur or Berne.
    “Often, to be economically feasible, communities have been forced to contract out all services” related to curbside recycling collections and refuse collections, Baker said. Were that to be the case, the independent contractors may choose to continue to bring any and all refuse to the Adams County transfer station. Similarly, they could chose to take that trash elsewhere.
    “And without a waste stream, it’s possible that we may not be able to maintain the transfer station, which would be a detriment to the rest of the county residents,” Baker said.
    Solid waste board member DuWayne Herman said a family member who resides in the Broad Ripple area of Indianapolis pays $80 annually for the curbside collection of recyclables. Herman said Adams County residents — with recycling collection sites open once weekly in Decatur, Monroe and Berne, and with the ability to drop off recyclables during regular working hours at the transfer station daily — would seem to have both the ample opportunity and the necessary incentive to dispose of their recyclables free of charge.
    And Mayer said that’s when recycling is at its most effective.
    “Traditionally, recycling will not work its best when it costs people money,” the solid waste director said. “I think (supporters of curbside recycling) had better look at all the pros and cons.”
    On a personal note, as an avid recycler who has seen counties and municipalities in other parts of the country offer much less than does Adams when it comes to the ease of recycling, we would hate to see anything jeopardize the programs that currently exist here.
    Would it be nifty to waltz our recyclables out to the curb on a weekly basis and watch them magically disappear? Without question is would.
    But with a still-sluggish economy and local governments and area residents alike forced to keep a watchful eye on expenses, the time simply isn’t right to launch a new endeavor that at best can be viewed as a luxury.
    If it ain’t broke, it works. And that would seem to include recycling efforts in Adams County.

    The writer is the opinion page editor of the Decatur Daily Democrat.

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