In an effort to broaden the discussion a bit on this subject (and at the insistence of one of our readers – thanks, Ginger!), I submitted a slightly edited version of the original post to the Sakonnet Times as a letter to the editor. It didn't show up in the print version because of everything going on in Portsmouth, but it did land online. Unfortunately, I'm not sure how many people in town are checking that out.
In any case, we've had some good discussion so far. In his comment, “michiganmiked” brought up the need to make it mandatory through town ordinances and then impose penalties for those who can't seem to get it right. He referenced a model policy in Derry, NH.
Well, if my memory serves, recycling is "mandatory" in Tiverton according to Chapter 66/Article III of our town ordinances. Chapter 66 (Solid Waste Management) was revised and passed sometime in 2005 (again, if memory serves) while I was on the town recycling committee. I checked the town website for a copy of the current ordinance but couldn't find anything. Best you can do is link to our Code of Ordinances as of 2003. (Comment: How can citizens know the ins and outs of town living if officials can't even update online information that could no longer be accurate. What's the obstacle, here? That info is almost five years old.)
The problem is that of enforcement. Whose job is that? The police? The waste hauling company? The town? First, we need some top-down commitment that recycling and reducing our collective volume of trash is a priority. Then we need to find and empower the resources to enforce it. I agree, if you start not picking up someone’s trash or hitting them in the wallet with fines, they are sure going to stand up and notice.
"michiganmiked" – Do you know how Derry is enforcing their code?
"Shelli" commented on efforts to recycle at a local school in Westport. In terms of Tiverton -- if recycling is “mandatory” -- no one is spot-checking that effort and enforcing compliance. Again, the town needs to step up and lead by example.
It's shortsightedness in thinking and planning that's going to get us in a bind. While our landfill still has capacity, one day it's going to be capped. When that happens, WE (the town) will pay to have our trash hauled to the Central Landfill in Johnston. There, WE will pay a per-ton tipping fee for trash (and penalties for not separating recyclables if that's the case). If the terms are still the same as a few years ago, there is NO tipping fee for recyclables. That's an easy math problem to solve: The more you recycle, the less trash you have. The less trash you have, the less your tipping fees are. The less your tipping fees are, the more money you save in the town budget.
Let me try to get Steve Rys of the Recycling Committee to add to the discussion.
Bottom line: We have to do better. If not for the planet, then for some small contribution to tax relief. Choose your personal priority.