Westminster's mandatory recycling law should be trashed No need for 'Big Brother' to threaten citizens any more


July 05, 1992|By Sharon Hornberger

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed."

This is given to us from the Declaration of Independence. Abraham Lincoln defined this as meaning that ". . . It was the right of the people to govern themselves, to be sovereign of their own affairs, in the sense that a state belongs to the people who inhabit it."

It seems that the more times governmental bodies meet in Carroll County, the more rights we the citizens tend to lose. Take for example the current situation regarding recycling in the county.

The county has by state law until July 1, 1993, to come up with a program to recycle 15 percent of the county's waste.

The Westminster City Council decided recently to impose a mandatory recycling program for all city residents. Those who do not comply with the new recycling solid waste law will be fined $25 for a first offense.

"Mandatory recycling makes a very clear statement with how this council feels about recycling," said Councilwoman Rebecca Orenstein.

Recycling is a serious matter that needs to be addressed, but do we need laws regarding it to be imposed upon residents who have elected the council?

The mayor of Westminster is even advocating a countywide mandatory recycling law to be imposed upon all residents of Carroll County.

The county commissioners correctly point out that there does not exist a need for a mandatory recycling plan. The commissioners point to towns such as Union Bridge and Sykesville. These towns already have voluntary recycling programs in effect and are surpassing the mandated 15 percent by voluntarily recycling 25 percent of their waste stream.

These successes show that once properly educated, the citizens will respond voluntarily to recycling, without the need for incentives or threatening fines.

Carroll countians currently, without a formal recycling plan, recycle around 7 percent of their waste stream.

A mandatory program could prove to be more of a drawback to county recycling efforts. First, people will resent yet another mandate from the government into their private home lives, and, secondly, it would be extremely difficult to enforce. Who will be the "trash cops"?

The commissioners have developed a plan to meet the July 1993 15 percent recycling deadline. Their plan will require every county trash hauler and scrap dealer to report all the recyclable material being processing from Carroll County, whether or not the processing occurs in Carroll County.

Some believe that Carroll County may very well be past the estimated 7 percent recycling and actually closer to the 15 percent mandate. Once haulers start reporting all waste recycling, we may have met or even surpassed the 15 percent figure.

As I see it, we do not need yet another intrusion into our lives by "Big Brother" government. I feel confident that if the citizens of Carroll County are properly educated about the need for recycling as well as the state's legal requirement, we will see the county meet its requirement voluntarily.

Likewise, county and local government officials must wake up and remember who their employers are: we the voters. We are all tired of every level of government handing down dictates to us.

As Commissioner Donald Dell said, "We have to take mandates from the feds and we have to take mandates from the state. We're not going to take any mandates from the towns."

I couldn't agree more. Let's hope he remembers this the next time he votes on a new county law.

It's time for government to stop giving mandates and to start to RTC work together with the people to resolve issues, not merely to act as Big Brother.

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