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Let’s agree on producing less trash

I’ve always enjoyed going to the dump.

Once a month on a Saturday morning, I would cheerily announce to my family members that I was taking the trash to the dump, and ask if anyone wanted to join me.

It became a “thing” for me as they blearily wondered about my sanity.

I would tell them they were going to miss out on the excitement. I would regale them with tales of a breakfast brunch, a Bloody Mary bar and perhaps some toasting of marshmallows with the boys at the dump.

Of course, none of it was true, but I enjoyed it nevertheless.

My wife now asks how the dump was when I return, and I have to come up with new and more exciting things to tell her.

I’ve never paid someone to come pick up my trash.

I’ve always done it myself.

When we were first married, I took the trash barrels down into the landfill. I remember doing that on Ridge Road in Queensbury when I first moved here. That big hole has now been replaced by a rolling, grassy hill.

I actually enjoy the sorting and preparation process.

We have bins for tin cans, glass, newsprint and plastic.

I get an odd satisfaction out of breaking down the cardboard boxes into a small, flat pile that fits easily in the SUV. I amaze myself how much I can fit into that car for an $8 fee.

I feel a little better about myself when I recycle. I believe there are a lot of people like that.

So when I learned there was a presentation at SUNY Adirondack Thursday night about how we could reduce our trash, I was not going to miss it.

I was one of 100 or so people there to listen to Neil Seldman explain how we can recycle better and reduce our trash footprint.

I wondered if they all liked to go to the dump like me.

Seldman gave a brief history of our sad environmental record from years ago, and how it spurred our country to clean up its act.

It was an important reminder, especially for the college kids who weren’t alive then.

During three days in November 1966, a mass of stagnant air settled over New York City, trapping in carbon monoxide and sulfur dioxide and leading to the deaths of scores of residents.

In January 1969, there was an oil well blowout six miles off the coast of Santa Barbara. An estimated 100,000 barrels of crude oil spilled into the ocean and onto California beaches. It still ranks as the third worst oil spill of all time.

But the one that may have made the biggest impact of all happened in Cleveland. In June 1969, a spark from the train tracks floated down into the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland, and the river caught on fire. The reality that water pollution had gotten so bad a flowing river could catch on fire and send flames five stories high made an impact nationwide.

I don’t think any of us want to go back there.

That was our country without environmental regulation.

According to Seldman, we could reduce a third of our waste by composting. It’s a simple practice that any of us could do in our backyard by layering a variety of biodegradable products, from table scraps to pine needles and paper, and then covering it with a tarp.

It could later be used for fertilizer in gardens.

But the reality is that most of us probably won’t do that. It does sound like some extra work. But our towns could make significant inroads by forcing more stringent recycling guidelines that include dividing up our trash into different piles, while adding a composting center in each town.

I can’t think of any reason someone would oppose producing more trash.

Making dual stream recycling mandatory is also a must. Dual-stream recycling is basically separating your fiber components — paper and cardboard — from other containers — glass, cans and plastic.

That’s how they do it at the Queensbury transfer station. I actually get a kick out of going from station to station with my recyclables.

This needs to be the law of the land, but it is more likely to begin in our neighborhoods than in Washington.

I hope the 100 people in attendance Wednesday go to their next town board meeting and demand improvements in how trash is handled.

I hope each board appoints a committee on reducing trash.

I saw a couple of elected officials at the presentation Wednesday night, too. But that’s not enough.

This is something we can do as a community. It is something we can do together.

And we’ll feel better about ourselves.

Ken Tingley is the editor of The Post-Star of Glans Falls.

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