2010-08-19 / Correspondents' Notes

Conservation Corner

By Greg Reineke

Recycling, why do people bother? For many, they recycle because it’s the right thing to do. Recycling conserves valuable natural resources, it reduces air and water pollution, and it saves on landfill space. The behavior of many people, however, is primarily motivated by convenience and money. Some note that recycling is a burden, it’s not convenient. Others note that they already pay for trash pickup (or, unfortunately, burn their trash), so why should they bother recycling? If you’re in this camp, if the conservation of resources for this and future generations is not enough for you, take note. If you make use of our current recycling drop-off sites and recycle your metal cans, your glass and plastic bottles, your paper and cardboard products, you’ll likely find that your actual trash generation drops by 75-80 percent, perhaps even more if you compost food waste. Several of our local trash haulers (Weaver’s and Peck’s) have “pay by the bag” programs where you can purchase stickers for each bag of trash generated. If you recycle what our recycling program accepts at the county’s recycling drop-off sites, and dispose of the rest using a “payas you-throw” system, you’re likely to be very pleased at how much you can save in trash disposal costs. This would save you money, and divert valuable resources from the landfill and back into the economy and new products. Those of you who still burn garbage are strongly urged to look into this option.

For those of you who are content with your current trash pickup arrangement, would like to recycle more, but don’t find the county recycling drop box program to be very convenient, one of our local haulers (Peck’s) offers a recycling component to their trash contract. Please contact them for more information.

Beyond everyday “garbage,” there are other items that can, and should, be recycled. If you don’t want to wait for occasional electronics recycling event that the Conservation District sponsors, you should be aware that both Staples and Best Buy have electronics takeback programs. These programs do vary and some have a cost, so it’s wise to call beforehand or do some Internet research. Even Allegheny Power has a recycling program for large appliances (such as refrigerators and freezers) that still work. The pickup is free and they’ll pay you for the appliance. Rechargeable batteries are also recyclable. Our closest collection point for rechargeable batteries is M&M Electronics (Penn Village Shopping Center).

Just as a reminder, the recycling program (at the drop boxes) does not accept plastic bags of any sort. If you bring your recyclables in a plastic garbage bag, please empty the bag into the bin and take the bag home. Also, only plastic that is in the shape of a bottle or jug (opening narrower than the body) is accepted. No plastic wrap, no bags, no “clamshell” containers, no margarine tubs, no plastic items (toys, car parts, etc.) are accepted in the program. Please flatten all cardboard boxes. Please note, the recycling bins must be full before they are switched out, so there will be times when it may be difficult to place your recyclables in the bin. If you cannot carefully make room by pushing items around, please temporarily take your recyclables back home – do not leave recyclables on the ground outside the bin!

Household hazardous waste

Please mark your calendar. The county commissioners have contracted for a household hazardous waste collection that will be held on Saturday, September 18, from noon to 3 p.m. This is the perfect opportunity to dispose of hazardous material in a more environmentally sound way. More details will appear in the newspaper the beginning of September, or call the Conservation District (717-485-3547).

Septic tank pumping

Depending upon where you live in the county, you may have received notice that your township now has a septic system maintenance program. The program typically notes that you are required to have your septic tank pumped every three years. From the participation rates, it seems that people do not understand the importance of these programs. An “on-lot wastewater treatment system” maintenance program is designed to protect human health. The best designed and properly installed on-lot sewage disposal system will still malfunction if the homeowner does not properly operate and maintain the system. Homeowners often say: “Why should I pump my septic tank, I’m never had any trouble with it?” Think of it like your motor vehicle. If you don’t do periodic maintenance, your vehicle is only going to last so long. Pumping a septic tank is like changing the oil in your car. If you do it regularly, both car and septic system can operate smoothly and for a long time. If you don’t, they will both eventually fail (and usually quite abruptly). For your septic system, that failure means, at the least, a very costly repair (or replacement). It can also mean contaminated surface and groundwaters, health problems, and can spread diseases as well as create unsightly messes and foul odors when raw sewage surfaces or backs up into your house.

So, do yourself, and your groundwater neighbors a favor, pump your septic tank periodically. Yes, it has a cost, but so does changing that oil. Like your vehicle, which is cheaper, the oil changes, or a new motor when it seizes due to neglect? Pumping your septic tank is far cheaper than repairing or replacing your system, much less the cost of contaminated well water. Even if your township does not have a septic system maintenance program (ordinance) in place at this time, you are still urged to properly care for your system, which includes periodic pumping of the septic tank. If you would like a copy of a manual on how to care for your on-lot wastewater system, please contact the Conservation District at 717- 485-3547.

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