Now that the Columbia County landfill has been closed and turned into what for the next 30 years will be a well-monitored wasteland, what happens to all the garbage the growing community continues to generate?
The demand side of the problem is being solved by private waste-haulers, especially Advanced Disposal, which operates a transfer station near the old Baker Place Road landfill.
But on the supply side, there's still far too much being thrown away that instead could be recycled. And Columbia County is taking far too long to help provide an alternative.
A year ago, we applauded county commissioners when they took the first steps toward setting up recycling centers by approving preliminary designs for two sites. Months have passed since then, unfortunately, with little to show for it.
Certainly, some of the lag is a transitional issue; the process started under former County Engineer Jim Leiper, who left a couple of months ago and has been replaced by Miguel Valentin. Since then, the landfill has closed down and underlined the need for more recycling opportunities.
That still doesn't explain why, for example, that all the county has to offer is a piecemeal approach: Aluminum cans can be donated at a handful of sites that benefit the Southeastern Firefighters Burn Foundation, and newspapers can be taken to bins at local schools. Grocery bags can be recycled at area Publix grocery stores. The county provides a site for recycling old cell phones, and has set up a couple of temporary bins for telephone book recycling.
Advanced Disposal, to their credit, will take old appliances. But recyclable consumer materials such as plastics and glass still have to go in the garbage. And far too much of everything else still travels to the landfill, too, either in Augusta or at Advanced Disposal's own landfill in Twiggs County.
Though recycling has long been a staple of environmental education, it doesn't do much good to teach citizens to be more responsible consumers when it's so difficult for them to follow through.
The county should make it easier with some substantive follow-through of its own. Setting up a recycling program clearly has not been a priority for Columbia County, but it should be.
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