Waste Plan for 2013

Written by I.R.C.. Posted in Earth Matters Columns

If you flush and it goes away, most people don’t care about the rest of the story. A professional colleague shared this wisdom with me nearly two decades ago, making the point that most folks just want the water to go down the drain or toilet. The details are someone else’s concern and they trust that it will be done in the best interests of the environment and our health.

This same principle holds true with our water, our waste and our recycling. Turn on the spigot and clean water comes splashing out. Set out your trash, recycling and yard waste, and it gets collected and taken to the proper place. But all this just doesn’t happen by some divine intervention. It happens because people plan, they make investments in equipment and they work hard to make it happen every day of the week.

Recognizing that some counties and local governments didn’t always pay as much attention to their trash as they should, Pennsylvania passed Act 101 a quarter century ago. Besides requiring recycling in the Commonwealth’s 500 largest municipalities, it also required counties to write a solid waste plan and update it every ten years.

Blair County’s update was recently finished and is now open to public review and comment. Particularly in light of the recent closure of the county office of waste and recycling, we hope that a significant number of people will take time to show support for or comment on the plan.
Among the many programs discussed in the plan are things like the annual hazardous waste collection, which is scheduled for later this month on Saturday, June 22, and the electronics recycling drop-off event held last month.

The Intermunicpal Relations Committee (IRC), the council of governments that has stepped into to fill the void left by the county will continue operation of the existing composting and recycling drop-off facilities in Buckhorn and Duncansville. They will also oversee the curbside recycling and assist municipalities that implement drop-off recycling programs like those in Martinsburg, Claysburg, Williamsburg and Frankstown.

Though the plan recognizes these worthwhile programs and hopes they can continue, it also acknowledges that Blair County still has much to do. Besides the obvious need for the support of the residents, businesses and institutions from throughout the county, a commitment from all the municipalities is essential.
Even if curbside recycling and composting are not practical in every nook and cranny of the county, waste collection for everyone and convenient, affordable waste services are important. Things like the permanent electronics recycling drop-off at the Buckhorn and the annual hazardous waste collection in two weeks must continue to be available.

Yet right now, a number of municipalities are not supporting these programs. I suspect that many of their residents would be upset if they were not able to participate in them. Everyone makes trash, even the very best recyclers among us. Burning it, burying on the back forty, dumping it illegally or throwing it in someone else’s dumpster is not acceptable. Burning that which can be recycled doesn’t make sense. A plan that addresses these issues will be a sensible step into the 21st century.

Don’t forget about the Household Hazardous Waste collection on Saturday, June 22 at the Curve’s PNG Field parking lot. Visit www.ircenvironment.org, the IRC Office at Altoona City Hall or join us for the public hearing on Tuesday, June 11 at Altoona City Council Chambers on Washington Avenue to comment on the update to the Blair County Waste Plan.

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