What’s new on the plateau

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Patrick Taylor – Highlands Mayor

There are growing challenges as to how we dispose of solid waste and how we recycle.  The “we” is at all levels; the world, the nation, the state, the county and yes, ‘the town.’  It is all interconnected.

Paint and construction debris should not be mixed with household garbage.  There is an entirely different protocol for disposing paint and environmentally sensitive materials. The Macon County Solid Waste Department can provide instructions.  Their number is (828) 349-2215. 

The dumpsters throughout town have become dumping magnets for some, regardless of where they live, what is being dumped and regardless of who has paid for the service.  The town manager and I watch people almost every morning pull up to the dumpster on Oak Street across from Town Hall and toss  trash bags  from their trunks into the bins.  Those dumpsters are rented by businesses on Main Street. What is really outrageous is that not only residents, but employees going to work, contractors and even other business owners who have not paid for the dumpster do it.

It has gotten so bad that someone recently jammed, and I mean forcibly stuffed, a couch into one of the dumpsters along with other construction materials. The sanitation crew had to bring in an excavator to remove the contents.

Last year construction materials, including 2x4s were thrown into a dumpster. When the town worker was using the truck to empty the dumpster, the 2×4 fell out and was stuck at a critical point to where the dumpster disconnected and swung out, hitting and injuring the worker. Fortunately he was not killed, but loss of work and substantial medical bills amassed.

Folks from everywhere are coming to these dumpsters and putting almost everything in them.  The Town of Highlands pays for the tipping fees and cost of operating these dumpsters at the recreation center.  They were  supposed to be an alternative service for town residents to dispose household garbage. They have become problematic. It isn’t and shouldn’t be just “the town” problem.  It is the broader community’s problem.

Another related issue is recycle contamination, even here.  Other countries have stopped taking American recycled materials because much of it is contaminated, with things like paint, oils, chemicals and food.  Some advocate a single stream recycle system where a person or mechanical system sorts recycle materials.  Those associated costs make recycling a questionable financial proposition. Good recycling starts literally at home.  An even bigger issue is finding methods to cut down on single use materials.

So, what should “the town” do?  First, get rid of multiple use dumpsters wherever possible.  Businesses will need to use bear resistant toters which  will be provided, thereby taking ownership of only waste they generate. Residents and businesses need to implement sound disposal practices,  not just dumping construction  materials and liquids anywhere they think is convenient to them, and that no one will notice.

Finally, the town needs to find a site for a recycling and convenience center and partner with the county in its construction and operation.  Finding a site will be the challenge.

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