The recyclables in my garage are piling up the same way they pile up at recycling centers across Erie County. The last time I went to the drop-off center at the county building near the fairgrounds off Columbus Avenue, there was no room in the bins and junk was flying with the wind. When centers overflow the recyclables end up in the lawns of neighboring homes. Some residents spend days picking up the trash, and their complaints to the county fell on deaf ears for years. And by that time the recyclables that end up on their lawns are trash. They can't very well take them to the recycling center, now, can they?
I received an e-mail this weekend about the problem at another county recycling location: "The center at Osborn Park is roped off preventing any more drops, and it's overflowing ... I watched several people with loads stop, turn around and leave the place Sunday morning."
Erie County commissioners Pat Shenigo and Bill Monaghan are working to resolve this problem, but they inherited a dysfunctional county government that was abused and mismanaged for 20 years. The county's Sanitary Engineering Department likely is already bankrupt, and the incompetent previous county leadership left Shenigo and Monaghan with a lot to fix. The county's poor excuse of a recycling program is just center stage for now, but I have little doubt the systems of county government are broken across the spectrum of county services.
The good news -- again -- is that at least Shenigo and Monaghan are working on it, and working on the other issues. But don't expect miracles. It took a long time for local government to get this broken; it will take years to get things fixed. They've only just begun.
I started recycling in about 1985, and I remember first reading in the Washington Post about the recycling mandate where I lived. The city of Silver Spring, Maryland, a suburb of Washington, would require residents to put glass, tin and plastic recyclables in one container, and newspapers in a second one and leave those containers out front on trash pickup day. Ridiculous, I thought. There was just no way I was going to separate my garbage.
But I did, and recycling became second nature to me.
In Lorain County, where the populations is about five times the population of Erie County, there has been curbside recycling for years. If it's possible there, why wasn't it possible here?