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[greenyes] Recycling Curtailment / Resurection




Wayne has added a breath of good news about efforts to curtail recycling
in Walkertown, NC --

"As a follow-up to my last post about the general health of recycling
programs, the two most notable program curtailments of which I'm aware,
NYC and a small municipality here in NC, have been reversed and the
programs reinstated in some form or fashion after having been totally
suspended. I'll leave the details of Gotham's program suspension and
reinstatement to those more closely affiliated with it, although it
certainly garnered national attention when it was suspended. I thought
it might interest the list-serve to know about the community here where
I work and live.

"Walkertown, a small municipality here in Forsyth County, NC suspended
its recycling program two years ago due to an imminent budget crisis.
The elected officials cited poor participation (<25%) and high costs
($38,000/year). They were receiving once/week recycling service from
WMI, the contracted collector. Walkertown has a relatively high
proportion of seniors in its population base. The age of the population
was one of the reasons given for the low participation rates. After the
town council voted to suspend the program there were several passionate
defenders of the program, both young and old, who came to the next town
council meeting to speak in support of continuing the program. Although
the speeches made by the program supporters were convincing and
impassioned, the council did not overturn their decision to suspend the
program. the program was terminated on July 1, 2003.

"The town now has newly elected officials (it has been suggested that
some were voted off due to not supporting the recycling program) and one
of their immediate tasks was to find funding for the recycling program.
They did so and have reinstated it with service once every two weeks,
adequate for this community. The program is scheduled to start again on
July 1, 2004.

"It is this kind of political activism and perseverance that gives me
hope that local recycling programs will continue to be a part of the
government landscape for years to come. As John Reindl put it, it's not
only about the immediate financial gains/losses of the program but also
about the less quantifiable long-term environmental benefits."

I have no doubt that there are dozens of small stories such as Wayne
recounts that will warm our hearts.

Maybe it's because I accursed by being an economist, but, while those
stories may envigorate our hopes, I do not believe that they can sustain an
industry.

That is why I went on in my emal last week to describe the corrossive
pressures that are running riot through our industry today that compromise
our future.

Now it is certainly true that there will be places with a strong
environmental ethic where people evince the political activism that Wayne
describes and the understanding of environmental benefits that John rightly
points out, and they will be tempted feel immune to those headwinds.

But, because we are all in a commodity business that operates in a
global economy, no island will be immune, not Ann Arbor, Madison, Austin or
Berkeley to what is happening outside their city walls. For everyone sells
into those wider markets, and, as their economics erode and the
infrastructure crumbles, the markets for everyone will decline in turn.

That is why I am very much of the belief that we all need to redouble
our support of earlier successful measures mandating recycled content in
newspapers and non-food plastic bottles, and voluntary committments by Coke
and later Coke in beverage plastic bottles that have been critical in
leveraging prices we receive. And we also must move on to the next battle
now waging to eliminate the massive regulatory subsidies for landfilling
against which recycling competes.

Resting our laurels on those noble stories, which we all relish so
dearly, will not, unfortunately, carry the day.

Peter







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