Banks County Opinions...

AUGUST 14, 2002


By: Rochelle Beckstein
he Banks County News
August 14, 2002

Waste not, want not
Paper towels. Paper napkins. Toilet paper. Paper plates. Plastic spoons and forks. Sandwich baggies. Ziploc bags. Saran wrap. Disposable tupperware. Disposable bakeware. Disposable diapers and wipes. Disposable dust-rags, window-rags and mop heads. Disposable pens and lead pencils. Junk mail. Cereal boxes. Coke cans. Toothpaste tubes. Banana peels. Apple cores. Old shoes. ... ...
It’s all waste. If I included cheaply-made quality-less products the list would grow without end. You know what I’m talking about. The plastic toy in the bubble gum machine. The blender that was on sale and isn’t worth the money to fix the thing two years later. Cheap knives that can’t be sharpened. Pans that lose their finish and subsequently their pan surface. The cheap stuff that isn’t biodegradable. The stuff that will sit in landfills long after our life is over. It doesn’t seem possible that a $29 pan set can cost our environment so much more. But it’s true. And here’s another riddle: as people become aware of the dwindling amount of space left on our Earth for garbage to go, why do disposable products and the amount of trash increase exponentially? Is it a lack of caring or do people think it is someone else’s problem? I think it is our problem and one we need to address.
In 2001, over 409 million tons of municipal waste was generated in America, an increase of 26,435,000 tons from 2000. Thirty-two percent of the 409 million tons of garbage was recycled—a one percent decrease in recycling rates. After compensating for the trash that was recycled, every person in the U.S. threw out .979 tons of garbage, most of it reusable or recyclable. It’s a sorry picture, but it gets worse. The 409 million tons is only the municipal waste which accounts for less than 20 percent of the country’s total waste. The other 80 percent of the waste includes a combination of hazardous, industrial, infectious, and other wastes that are disposed in non-municipal, commercial, or private facilities. The 20 percent also doesn’t account for trash that is burned or trash that is illegally dumped on the roadside.
Since 1990, more than 11 billion tons of domestic and foreign waste have been disposed in the U.S.. That is enough to cover every acre in the nation with 4.7 tons of waste. Relying on EPA’s Franklin Associates, which calculates price per ton of municipal waste disposal at a conservative $100/ton, the total cost to consumers for 11 billion tons of garbage is in excess of $1.1 trillion. That’s a bill we can’t afford. But some states think trash is good business. Pennsylvania imported nearly 10 million tons of trash in 2000, an action that should be mandated by the Environmental Protection Agency, but they have effectively washed their hands of the whole business. In 1976, Congress passed the Solid Waste Disposal Act which gave the EPA authority over waste management in the United States. The Act required states to create and implement ‘State Plans’ that would maximize waste reduction and recycling. State Plans should have been submitted to the EPA, approved and implemented by 1980. That timeline was not met. Since 1981, the State Plan provisions of the Act have been largely ignored.
“The U.S. is sinking under an endless avalanche of waste, with no credible plan of action in sight,” says Lynn Landes, founder of Zero Waste America, in 1998’s State of the Nation’s Waste report in 1998. “The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has a legal obligation under the Solid Waste Disposal Act (or Resource Conservation and Recovery Act-RCRA) to require that states maximize waste reduction and recycling. Federal law also requires that states provide Solid Waste Management Plans. Instead, states have a patchwork of programs with loopholes large enough to drive a trash truck through.”
Meanwhile, Georgia was named fifth in the nation for generating the most waste at 14,645,000 tons in 2001 just behind such giants as California, Florida, Texas and New York. Though it was named last of 14 states that recycle the most in the nation, Georgia was actually only one percentage point above the national average. That means that as a whole the nation is not recycling. If you’re a bad seed among very bad seeds, you’re still not a good seed. Case in point, Georgia’s 14,645,000 tons of garbage tossed out last year with only 33 percent recycled, leaves the total waste sitting in local landfills at 1.333 tons of garbage for each person, That gives Georgia the distinction of being ninth in the nation for worst waste management.
We can do better.
Rochelle Beckstine is a columnist for MainStreet Newspapers.


By: Phillip Sartain
he Banks County News
August 14, 2002

Found and lost
Last week I found a wad of money in my pants pocket while dressing for work. It was such an unexpected pleasure that I did a little celebration jig in the bedroom. But that was before I took the time to stop and think about my good fortune.
For some reason, finding the surprise money turned out to be a blessing and a curse. Of course, I was glad to stumble on some extra cash by accident. But at the same time, I got so worked up that I thrashed about in my closet checking the pockets of all my other pants under the ridiculous assumption that there was more where that came from.
There wasn’t. And that realization only resulted in a weird sort of internal investigation. Even though I found the money in my pocket in my pants in my closet in my house, I made the mistake of wondering, “Where did this come from?”
Beyond that, I asked myself, “Why is it in my pocket? And more important, why didn’t I spend it when I had the chance?” That’s when I heard a little voice in my head saying, “Who were you with and what were you doing with money in the first place?” After that, things started to get a little fuzzy and my paranoia took over.
As I stood there, I started to worry that it might be a trap of some sort. And even if it wasn’t, how was I going to explain how I got the money in the first place? Suddenly, I went from being confused to being sneaky. In other words, I started planning how to hold on to my secret stash.
Obviously, it would have been simple to just stick the money in my wallet and forget about it. Even better, my gut was telling me to go charging out of the house and make some totally frivolous purchase immediately. But then I realized that that would be a dead giveaway.
Finally, it occurred to me that if I really wanted to keep my money, then maybe I should leave it alone and let everything look undisturbed. I figured that would help me in the guilt/innocence phase of any eventual inquiry as to my whereabouts on the morning I found the money.
Amazingly, within the span of about five minutes, I’d gone from being elated to curious to paranoid to sneaky to guilty. Even worse, I was planning my own defense, complete with alibis, documentation, and physical evidence in an effort to prove that I didn’t do anything wrong.
It was while I was in the middle of this downward spiral of stupidity that my wife walked in the room and saw me in a state of half dress with a couple of wadded up bills in my hand. It was a critical moment in my warped logic and it caused all of my brain synapses to fire at once.
“Here,” I said, “take this money and use it to buy the kids’ school supplies.” She smiled, took the money with a kiss, carefully folded the bills, put them in her wallet, and left the room without saying a word. And before she could even shut the door, I was back to zero.
Is it just me, or is there a pattern at work here?
Phillip Sartain is an attorney in Gainesville.

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