Screwing Up Garbage - HB 454

Bruce Maples (bruceinlouisville@gmail.com)
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Here we go again. We finally get people used to paper, not plastic, and Reps. Steve Riggs and Jerry Miller want to trash the system by introducing HB 454. It’s hard to mess up garbage, but this bill does just that. And along the way, it also screws up our overall waste management system, and sets the stage for multiple fights down the road between various local governments. It’s a bad bill, with bad outcomes, and needs to be pulled. Here’s why.

Louisville has one landfill. We also have a single board that oversees the waste management system for the county and what goes into that one landfill. If you’ve only got one landfill, that’s the way it should be; otherwise, you’ve got every small city and garbage collector dumping whatever they want into our one landfill.

The system went along fairly quietly until this board, commonly called the 109 Board, decided a few years ago to outlaw plastic leaf bags. Why? Because you can’t compost the leaves with the plastic, so the entire bag of leaves goes into the landfill and takes up space. Hundreds of thousands of bags of leaves, filling up our one landfill. Paper leaf bags, on the other hand, can be composted and sent back into the community. A win for everyone, right?

You would have thought so, until you heard the wails and gnashing of teeth about having to use paper bags. Apparently, some legislators think that people just don’t know how to operate paper bags any more, or something. But of course, most of the adults in our city are actual adults, and didn’t have a problem moving from plastic to paper, as we surmised would be the case when we first wrote about this. And, as noted in WFPL’s story, we have had a 99.85% compliance rate.

Now here come Riggs and Miller, who want to blow up the 109 Board and take away its authority to oversee our one landfill and our waste management system, and leave it up to every small city in the county to figure out. If you read the bill, it reads like the dropping of a bomb in legislative language; it uses the word “prohibit” at least six times just in the summary of the bill. Oh, and it declares the entire 109 Board to be vacant.

Great. Different cities following different rules, but sending their trash to the same county-wide landfill. One city uses paper and helps us sustain the life of the landfill, while another uses plastic and shortens it. But the first city still has to pay for the misuse of the second. Wonder how long it will take for one small city to sue another?

So, why would two sensible adult representatives want to blow up a working government system? Because of recycling. The Urban District has started moving to “wet-and-dry” recycling, and these two gentlemen are scared it is coming to the small cities. Apparently, asking people to separate their recyclables is once again too much for the citizens of our county. And so, in order to stop this horrendous overreach of government (“OMG, the horror – we have to put the newspapers and the spoiled milk in different bins!”), Riggs and Miller want to throw the whole system into chaos, halt our growing recycling culture, and cause our landfill to be used up decades before its time.

If there is a concern with wet-and-dry recycling, then state it. (Riggs calls it “radical recycling,” which tells me that he hasn’t met too many real radicals.) But don’t blow up our entire waste management system over it. That’s an overreaction that doesn’t belong in legislation.

Instead, file this bill where it belongs: in the trash.

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