Today’s Our View should have been written a lot sooner.
Credit to the Lumberton City Council, which on Monday is expected to approve a curbside recycling program that should be operating in a few months. When it does, the city will offer the only such program in Robeson County.
It’s shameful that it took so long. There are approximately 10,000 curbside recycling programs in the United States, an average of 200 a state, so it’s clear that there are not many cities the size of Lumberton that don’t already offer the amenity.
The city has in recent years offered voluntary recycling, but only the most determined recyclers — in more words, just a few among us — participate in the program, which demands bagging the recyclables and then driving them to collection bins where they can be deposited. Most city residents simply tossed the recyclables into the trash can even though some items, aluminum cans being the best example, are forbidden by state law from entering the county landfill.
Waste Management, a private company that already collects garbage in Lumberton and several other municipalities in Robeson County, won the contract for the recycling program, offering it to the city for $1.43 a home — $17.16 a year, a small price to pay for the benefits of such a program.
Details of the program, including the negligible cost that will be passed onto city residents, still must be worked out, but we pledge to keep residents informed as wrinkles are ironed out. Understanding that our population’s profile doesn’t come up green, we urge convenience, the simpler, the better — an ideal being all recyclables going into a single container for someone else to do the sorting.
The first recycling center was opened in the United States in 1972, but it’s been a slog for most of the 40-year journey. For years the benefits of recycling were outweighed by the costs, both monetarily and in energy consumed, and since there wasn’t much profit, industry wasn’t lining up to take and then process the recyclables.
The Earth’s resources are finite, and this country is its biggest consumer, with each American producing about 5 pounds of trash a day. About a third of that is now being recycled, including more than half of all paper products, meaning that 300 million tons of trash a year in this country isn’t retired in a landfill, but goes back to work.
It’s an important step that the city is taking, and we hope other local governments in Robeson County will follow. There’s room on the train, even if it is in the caboose.