Columbia County received disappointing news recently when USA Shooting announced that it would build its new target facility in Texas instead of at the soon-to-close Baker Place Road landfill.
But while there are no immediate plans for recycling the county landfill, at least the county is ready to take steps toward a conservation-minded recycling program.
Recent tests have extended the life of the county's landfill by a few months, meaning it could stay open into 2006. When it closes, all of the county's garbage will be packed up and hauled to Richmond County's landfill.
It isn't realistic to expect Columbia County to build a new landfill. But the county certainly can take responsibility for handling more of its own garbage by creating less of it.
The key is a comprehensive recycling program, and county officials are now, finally, taking steps in that direction.
"My feeling is it's past time,'' says Columbia County Commission Chairman Ron Cross. "We started talking about this almost two years ago. ... We just haven't followed through on it like I feel we should.''
The follow-through is now coming, thanks to cooperation from Martinez-Columbia Fire and Rescue, which will allow its stations to be used as dropoff points. It's a good fit: Already, most stations have trailers for donations of aluminum cans for the Southeastern Firefighters Burn Foundation. Bins could easily be added for other easily recycled products.
The pending closure of the landfill obviously makes it important to get this program up and running, so it is fortunate that Columbia County also is able to quickly recover from problems with its affiliation with Metro Augusta Clean and Beautiful.
Columbia County pulled out of that agency when its director resigned amid allegations of financial mismanagement. The county is now starting its own agency, Keep Columbia County Beautiful, an affiliate of Keep America Beautiful. The cost for KAB membership is just over $600, far less than the $25,000 the county was paying Augusta's agency.
As a bonus, Stacy Adkins, the county's special events coordinator, will add the beautification duties to her job title. Along with County Engineer Jim Lieper, Adkins will help get the overdue recycling program running.
The final piece of this partnership is right at home. The best conservation program starts with residents following the guidelines every child learns in school: reduce, reuse, recycle. Columbia County may soon no longer have its own landfill, but at least its residents can take responsibility for cutting down on the amount of garbage we send to someone else's.
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