Getting agressive about recycling

By Staff
Johnny Mack Morrow
Alabama's natural resources are not unlimited. We learned this during the recent drought when lakes dropped to unprecedented levels, crops withered, and cities and towns across Alabama enforced water use restrictions. Who would have ever thought that water would be a problem for us?
For a state that prides itself on its water resources–a map of the river systems is featured on the state seal–it was a rude wake-up call that we need to start planning for water and reducing its use.
The same awakening is happening when it comes to trash, and how to reduce it.
A new law sponsored by Rep. Frank McDaniel, D-Albertville, was passed by the Legislature and recently signed by Gov. Riley. It will levy a $1 per ton fee on waste disposed at Alabama's landfills. The fee will generate $7 million to $8 million each year, help with recycling, clean up illegal dumps, and beef up inspection of legal landfills.
We can't just keep throwing everything away. State officials say that we generate more than twice the amount of garbage than people in other states, and one of the main reasons is that we recycle so much less. Only about one in eight cities have some sort of recycling program, and less than ten percent of our waste is recycled. The national average is more than three times that rate, and consequently each one of us sends more and more stuff to the dump.
Landfills are not endless, and they are beginning to fill up. As communities across the state can testify, there is constant pressure to open new ones. Yet nobody wants a landfill opening near them, and we have a hard enough time trying to inspect and regulate the ones we already have. The fact is we must reduce the amount of waste we generate to reduce the pressure on landfills. Recycling is the key to doing this.
Many folks believe that the reason recycling has not been done as much here as in other places is because people don't know about it, and towns have a hard time getting started. The money generated from the fees will be a positive first step in raising awareness and helping local governments get started with their own programs.
There is probably another reason why recycling is more prevalent in other places than it is here: people in other states simply ran out of room for new landfills and they were forced to reduce and reuse, as the recycling folks like to say.
Well, we are kidding ourselves to think we can just keep burying our trash at the current rate. Like water, land resources are not unlimited and should be conserved as much as possible. We should start now before we run out of room.
Plus, recycling just makes good economic sense as well: it saves energy, it saves natural resources, and when it is done right, it can be a money maker for local governments.
Sometimes a good idea just needs a little jump start to get it going, and this new law on landfills may be the ticket to get us going in the right direction when it comes to recycling, and preserving the land that makes our great state.
Johnny Mack Morrow is a state representative for Franklin County. His column appears each Wednesday.

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