When one door closes another door of opportunity often opens. Such may be the case with recycling in Blair County. Confronted by a shrinking pot of money to pay for it, Blair County ended its popular and successful drop-off recycling program in 2012. Though this was bad news and could have spelled the end for recycling in many homes and businesses, it was just the thing that prompted municipalities to consider other ways to facilitate recycling for their residents.
After a court ruling, prompted by a challenge from the waste industry, counties throughout Pennsylvania were ordered to stop collecting fees levied on waste generated within their counties. Our fee funded the county compost facilities and an ever-growing drop-off recycling program. The drop-off program served every part of the county at ten different sites. The fee also funded the hazardous waste and electronics recycling programs that diverted tons of toxic material from burn barrels, disposal facilities and illegal dumps. In Blair County it cost residents less than a nickel per person each week.
But as the county department’s reserves dwindled, it became clear that the programs could not be continued. The department closed its doors on October 1, 2012 and the drop-off recycling containers were removed from the collection sites. This prompted some to suggest that it may be time to reexamine our waste management practices and make changes that some other counties have already embarked upon.
In nearby Centre County, all the townships (not just those larger ones mandated by state law) surrounding State College have curbside collection of recyclables as part of their weekly waste collection service. In Blair, however, recycling is required only in the mandated municipalities. Though many county residents would prefer curbside recycling, not all municipalities even require haulers to pickup recyclable material.
Though curbside recycling would be more challenging for the most rural parts of Blair County, a large portion of the county is well suited for curbside collection. The companies that provide recycling in the mandated communities are the same companies that pick up trash in the area in and around Altoona. Recycling trucks are already driving through these suburban communities from Tyrone to Newry and our nearby recycling facilities are marketing the materials that are collected.
The infrastructure is in place and residents are willing. Perhaps just as importantly, recycling is one of those things that make the community a more attractive place to live. When people look for places to live or do business, good environmental programs and services (especially that make the region more attractive) are an important consideration.
Even a full decade into the 21st Century, many thousands of households (and in every part of the county) do not even have waste service, let alone recycling. This contributes directly to the incidence of open burning, illegal dumping and dangerous accumulations of trash on private property. These changes will not happen, though, unless residents let their elected officials know that it is important. Let your municipal officials know that recycling and proper waste management is important for the entire community. Thank them if they have tried to tackle these issues or ask them to take action to make it possible if they have not already done so.
Let your municipal officials know that you would like them to pass an ordinance requiring that everyone have waste collection and that all business and households recycle.