User-agent: * Allow: / Trenton Butcher Block: A Well Intentioned Law Backfires

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Commentary on national and local events from the standpoint of a Trenton city resident and state worker.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

A Well Intentioned Law Backfires

Electronic Waste including old television sets, stereos, computers and batteries contaminate the environment when they are improperly disposed of.  The equipment contains toxic materials such as lead and cadmium which leach into the soil and groundwater when old equipment is thrown into landfills.  Although individual batteries contain only small amounts of toxic chemicals, these add up considering the number of batteries the over eight million New Jerseyians throw away each year.  That is why Governor Corzine signed a law several years ago which requires recycling of electronic waste generated by homes and apartments.

I knew there was going to be a problem as soon as I heard the message from city hall on an autodialer message that was sent to my home back in February.  The message said that the Trenton's garbage collectors would no longer pick up old television sets and other electronic items when put out on the curb with the regular trash.  Starting March 1, these items have to be taken to the city;s recycling center on Calhoun Street.

It was then that I remember reading something in the paper about two or three years ago that said that Governor Corzine signed a law that said that towns have to recycle these items rather than collect and dispose of them in landfills or incinerators.  Prior to the implementation of this law, residences were still allowed to put electronic items in the regular garbage, even though businesses have been required to recycle them for several years.  As I said above, the idea was to keep toxic chemicals out of our air, soil and water as well as to further reduce the amount of material disposed of in landfills.

Problem is that these laws are dreamed up by lobbyists and other professional types with college degrees that live in the suburbs.  The authors probably assumed that most people would store these items until a collection date is organized or will arrange to have them hauled to a recycling facility.  They had in mind communities with environmentally conscious residents who want to do the right thing and local governments with the resources to organize an effective collection program.  The authors probably pictured most electronic devices as relatively small affairs that could be transported to the recycling facility in the family car.

Enter TRENTON, where the city government lacks the money to pay for its police and fire departments without implementing a massive tax increase which most people can't afford.  Perhaps that's why the city came up with its hare-brained plan to have people drop off the old equipment at the recycling center rather than scheduling frequent (let's say monthly) collection days for these items.

We are over two weeks into the era of garbage men refusing to take old TV sets.  How is it going?  I don't know about your street, but around here on Home, Randall, Tremont, Elm, Chestnut, Beatty, etc., we have dozens of old TVs littering the ground.  Kids and other passersby have even begun picking them up and throwing them into the streets, smashing them to bits.

You tell me what's more environmentally responsible.  Putting old TV sets into landfills away from people, or allowing this junk to accumulate in the streets, so it can be smashed to bits, leaving pieces of lead and glass shards on the ground for barefoot children and others to cut their feet on and have the material leach into people's front yards.

So why then, do the local citizenry choose to behave in a 'brown" manner and insist on destroying their own environment?  Perhaps because most people living here are not lawyers or environmental lobbyists.
Homeowners and tenants basically just want to get rid of this junk and the way you do this is by putting it on the curb.  A lot of them don't get newspapers, some of them don't have landline telephones or even speak English, so they never got the word that the garbage people won't take the junk away.  

And even if they did know about the new law, what do you expect them to do with this stuff anyway?  Most of the TVs that are being tossed out are the old type with glass picture tubes.  They are big, bulky and heavy.  It is not convenient to put them into cars, because modern cars are  often too small to transport them.  And by the way what do you do with old fashioned console TVs or the buffet size cabinet-type stereos that many elderly residents still have.  I really can picture granny carrying one of these two miles to the recycling center, can't you?

Let's face it, the law isn't working.  We didn't get a cleaner environment.  Instead, we got dozens of old televisions laying on the street getting vandalized. 

Either do the job right and implement regular collections, or allow distressed cities like Trenton to opt out and go back to landfilling this junk.  This is just another unfunded mandate, being forced on towns by the state, without state money to pay for it.  If the state wants this stuff recycled, they should pay for the collections.  Fact is, we can't afford to do the things we were already required to do.

1 comment:

  1. How about getting the scumbags who now inhabit Trenton to do? We have to stop making things easier for the slackers just because they choose to be slackers. I has nothing to do with "College" education. I has to do with pride in your neighborhood and a general sense of common decency!