Mandatory recycling is Westminster's best option

GUEST COLUMN

July 12, 1992|By W. Benjamin Brown | W. Benjamin Brown,Mayor of the City of Westminster

Reading Sharon Hornberger's views on recycling -- "Westminster's mandatory recycling law should be trashed" (Carroll County Sun, July 5) -- leaves me relieved that she represents The Carroll County Sun rather than the residents of Carroll County.

With all due respect to the lady, we already have too many leaders who wouldn't recognize water if they fell out of a boat.

Recycling is not a terribly complex issue -- it is simply a disposal option for the trash that each of us generates each and every day.

Today, we have only two legal options. We can put it in the county's landfill on a "pay them now" ($5 million a year) and "pay them later" (the huge costs of developing new landfills as we quickly fill up existing ones) basis.

Or we can recycle everything that doesn't have to go into a landfill, thus avoiding tipping fees and extending the life of present landfills, which will be filled more slowly.

Unless we wish to pay through the nose for the "right" to have our trash placed in a landfill, Carroll countians must realize that recycling is no longer a matter of "ought" or "should."

If our tax rates are to be constrained, we must recycle. What reasoning argues for one's "right" to be wasteful, when it puts a financial burden upon one's neighbors? Failing to keep recyclables out of our landfills does just that.

Faced with disposal costs of $250,000 this fiscal year, as opposed to $70,000 last year, the council correctly saw the choice as being between higher taxes and vigorous recycling, in which everyone participates.

I applaud the Westminster council for reading the handwriting on the wall and for making the courageous decision to get on with mandatory curbside recycling.

Mrs. Hornberger argues against city government forcing its citizens to recycle, by making the curbside program mandatory. She cites the "success" of Union Bridge and Sykesville -- each of which recycles between 20 percent and 25 percent of its wastes -- and assures us that we can meet our countywide goals of 15 percent through voluntary efforts.

K? A few facts are revealing. While it is true that both Union

Bridge and Sykesville exceed the 15 percent goal, by recycling a little less than 25 percent, the break-even point at which we can recoup the costs of recycling is between 45 percent and 50 percent!

To state it simply, we don't even begin to reduce our disposal costs until we recycle approximately one-half of our trash. What kind of leaders propose goals of 15 percent, or even 25 percent, when the economic facts compel us to do far more?

Mrs. Hornberger can quote Jefferson and Lincoln until the cows come home, but it won't change the fact that Westminster's council has acted in the best economic interests of its residents while the county commissioners, whom she praises, have sold us all out to the economic interests of the trash haulers and the county's own "Solid Waste Enterprise Fund."

As with so many other issues in our society, doing the right thing involves doing our best. Hats off to Westminster's council for doing the right thing -- it's called leadership.

[Editor's note: Mrs. Hornberger is a columnist, and her views do not necessarily represent those of The Carroll County Sun.]

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