News that 60 percent of the trash Ohioans throw away could be reused is all the more reason for Toledo officials to find a way to promote broader public acceptance of the city's moribund curbside recycling program.
The recycling program has been offered citywide since 2001. For several years before that, it was available in 40 percent of the city. Still, only about 17 percent of 114,000 Toledo households take part.
That's surprising, disappointing, and, most of all, wasteful, especially in view of the "trash inventory" conducted by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. The survey, based on 460 truckloads of rubbish from 14 landfills, including Toledo's Hoffman Road facility, found that only about 40 percent of the trash should be buried.
Sixty percent of what is being thrown away by Ohioans includes paper, plastic, glass, and metal that could - and should - be recycled into new products. Amazingly, 42 percent of the trash is paper, including newsprint from this fully recyclable newspaper.
The importance of conserving resources and recycling materials is nothing novel to most Americans, but perhaps the urgency has been lost in the 30-plus years since the first Earth Day emphasized environmental concerns.
And there are even naysayers who claim the need for such a simple conservation measure is a myth.
Of course, these are the same folks who are the first to protest when the local overstuffed landfill moves to expand near their homes, or someone gets a permit to build an incinerator.
Faced with budget problems, Toledo officials are considering whether to end the biweekly recycling program, which costs $1.2 million a year to operate. One alternative is to replace curbside collection with drop-off sites operated by the Lucas County Solid Waste Management District.
Unfortunately, some 10 percent of city residents would be left unserved. Moreover, there is little reason to believe that those who don't feel the necessity to store recyclables in bins for pickup would bother to pack up the same items and haul them to a drop-off point.
Meanwhile, the city maintains six specialized recycling trucks that cost $175,000 each but are underutilized because only a meager 17 percent of households participate, about the same number that did three years ago.
Why more Toledoans don't recycle is a mystery, but one factor may be the availability of unlimited trash pickup, one of the city's most popular tax-supported services, which has escaped the budget ax for the time being. With unlimited pickup, it's so easy to just throw the aluminum cans, bottles, and newspapers out with the garbage. Easy, but self-defeating in the long run.
Rather than end recycling, the Ford Administration needs to get behind the program and breathe new life into what should be a feature of everyday life in a progressive - and elegant - American city.
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