I was disappointed to read that Franklin County commissioners voted to suspend the county-wide recycling program due to a decrease in the profitability of recycling (See Feb 20, 2020 Times “County suspends recycling program”).
In the past, commissioners have cited illegal dumping of household garbage in the recycling bins as their reason for wanting to do away with the program (See May 4, 2017 Times “County rethinking recycling program”). While we can’t do much about China not accepting our plastics for recycling, we can help to curb the problem of illegal dumping, by implementing a county-wide mandatory trash pickup.
Illegal dumping is not only unsightly, it’s downright dangerous. From protruding nails to leaking chemicals getting into the groundwater or the bay, to creating breeding grounds for mosquitos which can carry life-threatening illnesses; the health risks are significant. This puts our children, our neighbors, and our environment in danger.
Furthermore, getting rid of the recycling bins is not going to get rid of the problem. People will inevitably find another place to stash their trash. Illegal dumping is a widespread problem that affects our towns, our secluded forest roads, our public conservation lands, and even our beaches. Once we get rid of the bins, guess where the trash is going to pile up?
Of course, anytime we talk about mandatory pickup, it raises the question: how are we going to pay for it? I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t have the answer to that question, but I would urge the county commissioners to research programs used by other Panhandle counties. For instance, in Wakulla County, the fee for solid waste and recycling collection is included in property taxes (Wakulla County Chamber of Commerce website, 2011).
Another option to consider is applying for a grant from the US Department of Agriculture Rural Development program. The Water & Waste Disposal Loan & Grant Program is specifically geared toward rural communities and includes funds for improvement of solid waste collection. I feel confident that we can find ways to implement mandatory trash pickup without putting an undue burden on our low-income residents.
Franklin County has long been known as an important fishing area and is fast becoming a popular tourist destination. In 2018, Franklin County’s commercial fishery’s landing data had an estimated value of over $6 million. According to the Franklin County Tourist Development Council website, tourism is a $75 million industry for our area. Between tourism and commercial fishing, our economy relies on the protection of our natural resources. One way that we can protect those resources is with an effective waste management program. Illegal dumping is an ugly problem in this county, and we will not be able to curb that problem without implementing countywide mandatory trash pickup. Then maybe we can tackle the recycling issue.