Opinion Piece by Samuel Strait – February 3, 2017 – It had been awhile since I last caught a live meeting of the Del Norte Solid Waste Management Authority, (DNSWMA) in all its awkwardness. The comments below are from my take on the January 10th “emergency” meeting of that Commission via its posted video. It has become almost too embarrassing to attend meetings of the Commission in its current form, as it is crystal clear that the current commissioners are well beyond their capacity to look at the community that they represent and understand where the fantasy with regards to recycling ends and cross the gap in understanding, to the community they are supposed to be representing. It seems to me as I viewed the faces of the current three Commissioners, Chris Howard, Blake Inscore and Jason Greenough, that there was such a look of bewilderment as to how things had gotten so bad over such a short amount of time as to be almost comical. A heads up to the commissioners would quite obviously include, too much reliance on a staff so devoted to recycling as to defy the practical realities for a majority of Del Norte County’s residents. It shouldn’t have to be said. COMMISSIONERS, IT HAS BEEN A PROBLEM FOR A VERY LONG TIME! (As a side bar, it is something that is a problem for ALL recycling programs.) Something that recycling fanatics will not talk about.
This particular meeting began with the basic question of how did things get so bad so fast. The answer which has circulated in the community for well over ten years was that things with regard to recycling have been this bad since recycling was FIRST introduced in the County. Gee Whizzzz, no really? When you hire people who do not understand the economic dynamics of this County for the past thirty years or more, and ignore signs so obvious that recycling is not the first thing that MOST, yes that is MOST, people think of when they start their day, you end up with some rather utopian ideas about how Solid Waste is to be handled. Granted there are those who occupy that small number of people who will recycle like it is a religious occupation, more power to them, and a slightly larger number who can be propagandized into believing that the whole process is a net positive. Most people just want their trash to be picked up and disposed of as efficiently and economically as possible, without having to pick through their trash to separate out the recyclables which only truly reward some one else. This board continues to romanticize the whole notion of recycling like it is essential to live in this County. Sorry fellows, that just isn’t the case.
It continues to be stunning to see educated people who have gone to the trouble of running for elected office to be so clueless as to why recycling will only work in a very marginal sense of the word. No obvious personal benefit, then the only response is to create a benefit. That benefit is, since recycling is advertised to be “free”, and garbage isn’t, why not get a large recycling bin and put as much garbage in that bin in order to reduce my over all disposal cost. Why is it so hard to understand that when you adopt a single stream, or even a multiple stream curb side set up for recycling that this will not occur. It shouldn’t have to be said that experiences all over Europe and North America, that this is the Achilles heel of curbside recycling. The weaker the economy, the more poor people, the greater the problem becomes. This is something that MS. Cooper with her claim of research failed to reveal in the “Public Comments” portion of the meeting. Typical responses to this kind of behavior generally result in various agencies trying out various forced compliance methods, regulation, and punitive behavior. Something that our Commission has done during this meeting. Had they gone ahead with the removal of unmonitored recycling bins through out the County, the direct results will be as Commissioner Howard described, INCREASED ILLEGAL DUMPING.
When I looked at the photos by Recology being shown to the board of recycling contamination, and heard the claim of 25% contamination or a bit more, and wondered if we all were looking at the same photos. When a photo was shown of the trash separated from recyclable material, the two piles were nearly equal, with perhaps the trash pile being slightly larger. I understand that the pictures were for effect and meant to make the board move in the direction that they ultimately did, which was to give Recology new enforced compliance powers. Not that this will go any way towards solving the existing recycling problem, it most certainly will increase the blight and illegal dumping problem though. This is something that clearly escapes the current head of the DNSWMA, Tedd Ward, as he continues to push the County’s rate payers into the abyss of losing the current contractor, Recology with the same position of unacceptable loss as he did Julindra.
I understand that making those that recycle pay for the expense of recycling is not something that the current commission wishes to hear, but it is the only thing that will reduce the level of contamination to acceptable levels. Diversion amounts will take a hit. Recycling is not free, nor cheap, and in the current climate of low recycling returns, it is unacceptable for this Commission not to focus on the State to relax its diversion levels. Once the need for recyclables is restored, then and only then can recycling be increased. If the current board does not understand this message, then it should be dissolved.