Mark Hunter (ozma914) wrote,
Mark Hunter

next week's column: A Recycled Argument


Recycling used to be no big deal. Actually, it wasn’t a deal at all: there was plenty of room in the garbage dumps, right? Besides, most stuff got reused anyway: food containers, milk jars, medical supplies. People would wash off aluminum foil and use it again. There wasn’t much in the way of packaging – you’d bring your own basket to the store, where many goods were kept in big barrels, with scoops. When you did buy something in a package, it was a simple cardboard box that you’d burn on your trash pile out back. And that thing you bought? You didn’t throw it away and buy another: you had it fixed and continued to use it for years, if not generations.

Ah, how times have changed … not necessarily for the better.

Everything comes in individual containers now, like blister packages that you have to use the Jaws of Life to open. A lot of products – and I won’t complain about this applying to medical supplies – are used once, then thrown away. You buy something made in China by ten year olds working twelve hour days, and when it shockingly breaks, you toss it.

Then someone came up with a great idea: Recycling. It was conceived as a community service that might, eventually, break even on cost. The idea was to take simple, everyday items out of the waste stream (which is a pretty icky term) and reuse them. Metals were obvious: tin, aluminum, and so on. There was newspaper, cardboard, glass, and twenty different kinds of plastic. Eventually all that stuff could end up in new products, then be recycled all over again.

Sure, it would take work by the average citizens, but we’d answered that call before, back in World War II. With a little effort and an understanding of the problem we’d save energy, help the environment, slow the filling of landfills, and in the long run lower prices. Good for everybody.

Noble County entered into this fairly early, using county employees and instituting a system that attempted to reach out to the entire population. Eventually, that was given over to a regional recycling effort, the Solid Waste Management District.

Then, somebody figured out it could be turned into a business. That’s when people started forgetting the “good for everybody” part.

A group of the forgetful clueless has signed a contract, allowing a private company free reign to do what they need to do to make a profit.

They’ll tell you the meeting that led to that contract was an open meeting, and that we could have showed up to voice our concerns. That’s true, but it’s also a smokescreen. The general public rarely shows up to these meetings until after the deed is done, when it’s all over but the shouting. They claimed not to know that most citizens had no idea these changes were under consideration.

And so, as of this writing, the towns of Albion, Avilla, and Cromwell are losing their recycling drop-off points. In fact, the plan is to reduce 21 drop-off points to 12. Avilla collected the fifth highest amount of recycling on that list, with Albion sixth. The cities of Ligonier and Kendallville are keeping theirs, although the Albion site receives more tonnage than Ligonier does.

Now, the people supposedly representing Noble County on the SWMD board are from the Ligonier and Kendallville areas. Although they’ll tell you otherwise, the towns that are losing sites are not directly represented.


Albion’s recycling site is on the property of the Noble County Highway Department. There’s no rent; the cost of upkeep is little more than keeping the bins in good repair. What’s the point of removing something like that, with such a tiny upkeep cost? But wait, there is one cost: the cost of the private company’s trucks, going an eight mile round trip out of their way to make a pickup.

How do you explain the fact that these drop-off points are supposed to be rural, but in the new plan the city of Kendallville will go back to having two inside city limits? How do you explain the vast swath of rural Noble County that will be nowhere near a drop-off point? How do you explain the fact that many citizens of central and western Noble County often come to Albion, to do business in the county seat, without having any need to ever go to Kendallville?

It’s a regional district, you understand. And yet, I can’t help wondering if part of this is the latest salvo in a tiff that dates back 150 years, to when Kendallville leaders tried to lure the county seat to their city. What a sad idea, that rural Noble County should suffer again because of that old argument.

Do you think maybe we should remember the way the people in that group spit in the face of Noble County citizens when the time for, say, an election comes around? I’m just sayin’.

It was an open meeting, that’s just great. But they knew nobody was going to show. Otherwise maybe they’d have been worried about the fact that only 5 of the 16 District representatives were there, and they called that a quorum. If they really cared about the people they’re supposed to be serving, they’d have made an honest effort to get the word out before the contract was signed. If they really cared, they’d have fought against the contract, tooth and nail.

Now it’s signed (although they told the angry contingent that showed up at the next meeting that there’s “wiggle room”). The small towns that the drop-off program was aimed at will go without. Oh, sure, you can take your recycling to another town at three bucks a gallon of gas, if you have a vehicle big enough to hold it all. One of the district members made the statement that we’d be coming to Kendallville to shop, anyway. Apparently Albion doesn’t have a grocery store. That’s news to me.

If this isn’t reversed, three things will happen: First, some people are going to stop recycling. Second, people who don’t want to pay for the extra bags of trash are going to start dumping along the roadways of Noble County. Third, rural residents will start burning what they used to recycle, increasing the number of dangerous brush fires – which, coincidentally, began dropping at about the time recycling was implemented.

Maybe companies will start lessoning the amount of packaging they use? Nah – that would affect their profits. And money’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?

At least, it is now.
Tags: column, new era, slightly off the mark

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