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COMMENTARY BY RAMON PRESSON: Riding a recycle with training wheels

As a resident of Spring Hill with a Thompson’s Station mailing address (it’s complicated) I’m fascinated and amused by the recycling debate going on in my city…or the one next to it (it’s complicated). A plan is on the table to make curbside recycling available for all Spring Hill homeowners. The complaint is that customers will have to pay a whopping $3.58 per month for the added service whether they choose to recycle or not, totaling a wallet-breaking $43 a year. My gosh! We may have to cash in our IRA’s and sell our $400,000 homes to cover that astounding increase.

I honestly appreciate our city leader’s sensitivities to seniors on fixed incomes and simply to people who oppose government impositions on lifestyle choices and habits. But first of all, can we agree that recycling is a good thing? Or do we believe that the planet has an infinite amount of resources and energy, or that whatever the earth does contain is ours to possess and use in this generation? Let the next generation deal with our trash and bulging landfills just like we are handing them our $16 trillion national debt.

Secondly, $3.58 is a bargain for the convenience of curbside recycling. I spend more than that in gas going back and forth several times a month to the ironically named “convenience center.” My guess is that people complaining about the extra four bucks a month are not currently recycling and making regular visits to the “convenience center.”  So again, their complaint is “Why should we have to pay for a service we don’t use?”  I understand – I feel the same way about paying life insurance premiums – I’m paying for something I’ll never benefit from.

OK seriously, let’s apply the critic’s logic to other city/county services. I want a tax reduction because never once has the fire department been called to my home to put out a fire. Fred wants a rebate on his taxes because he never visits the city parks or the county recreation facilities. Kelly wants a partial refund after she found out a tiny portion of her taxes supports the local libraries—after all, she hasn’t checked out a library book since she graduated from high school. Speaking of school, Jason and Jessica are living together and don’t have children—why should they pay taxes to support public education? 

Let’s all just pay for services we like and/or use. Maybe the solution is to institute a pay-as-you-play system of supporting city/county services. Let’s say the paramedics show up at your home after someone calls 911 because you’re having a heart attack. (“Mr. Presson, would you like to see a menu of our resuscitation methods? And how long would you like us to continue doing CPR? OK, and will this be cash, check, or charge?”)

In a 2006 report titled “The State of Garbage in America” Tennessee had a respectable 26 percent recycling rate, which lagged behind California, Washington, and Oregon at 45 percent but was well above Wyoming and Mississippi sharing a paltry 2 percent.  A curbside recycling program was approved for nearby Franklin by city officials in 2010.

According to the National Energy Policy Institute there are currently more than 9,000 communities in the U.S. with curbside recycling programs. When we lived in south Florida our garbage collection service included curbside recycling— almost 20 years ago! 

According to the National Restaurant Association 65 percent of restaurant operators embrace the practice of recycling and have recycling procedures in place at their restaurants. I don’t know what number or what percentage of restaurants in Williamson County have any kind of recycling program but if the private citizens of Spring Hill and Franklin are going to step up their recycling I challenge restaurants (a major producer of paper, plastic, and glass waste) to join us.

And please, folks, spare me the “it’s those tree hugging liberal environmentalists who want to control our lives!” Do you complain about gas prices? The national recycling rate of 30 percent saves the equivalent of more than five billion gallons of gasoline, reducing dependence on foreign oil by 114 million barrels. Have you cheered the return of jobs to a re-tooled GM plant in Spring Hill? Incinerating 10,000 tons of waste creates one job; landfilling 10,000 tons of waste creates six jobs; recycling 10,000 tons of waste creates 36 jobs.

The sad truth is that some people will hold one morning’s $4 latte in their hand while complaining about being gouged $4 for an entire month of weekly and convenient recycling. Look at the data and the facts and you’ll see…it’s not complicated.


Author and therapist, Ramon Presson, is the founder of LifeChange Counseling and the Marriage Center of Franklin, TN.



Posted on: 12/4/2012


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