2011-06-02 / Local & State

PA Lawmakers Debate Mandatory Trash Collection

PITTSBURGH (AP) – Pennsylvania lawmakers are talking about making trash collections mandatory across the commonwealth in order to cut down on illegal dumping and other problems.

Although most residents have trash pickups, no state law mandates that they do. About 600 of the state’s largest municipalities have mandatory garbage collections, according to the Department of Environmental Protection.

“There’s a cost for having that truck drive past your house. If everybody pays, it becomes cheap,’’ Lorin Meeder, environmental programs coordinator for Cranberry, told the Pittsburgh Tribune Review.

In Cranberry, residents pay 56 cents a day to have trash, yard waste and recyclables hauled away. In the eastern part of the state, garbage bills can run more than $300 per year.

Proponents say mandatory trash collection would help address open burning, litter and illegal dumping.

The advocacy group Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful says its ongoing survey has turned up more than 5,300 illegal dump sites containing 16,000 tons of trash in both rural and urban municipalities in 49 counties.

Pennsylvania Department of Transportation records indicate that PennDOT spends about $10 million a year to clear litter from state-maintained highways.

Joe Divack, 67, of Squirrel Hill, one of the volunteers who work with Allegheny Cleanways to clean up illegal dumpsites, said mandatory trash collection will help.

“I think you’re really headed in the right direction,’’ said Divack. “It’s unfortunately true that illegal dumping is a much bigger problem in western Pennsylvania than many people know about.’’

Opponents, however, say a one-size-fits-all approach to trash collection wouldn’t work.

“We’ve heard the arguments of waste haulers and statewide environmental groups. A lot of the state is very rural,’’ said Elam Herr, assistant executive director of the Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors. “It’s difficult to have mandatory trash collections.’’

Tim O’Donnell, president of the Pennsylvania Waste Industries Association, said the bottom line is not hard to figure out.

“From an economic perspective, the closer together the houses are, the less expensive it will be for customers,’’ he said.

The goal of a new law would be to “ bring litter down and recycling up,’’ said Craig Brooks, executive director of the Joint Legislative Air and Water Pollution Control and Conservation Committee, which expects to hold a couple of meetings on the issue this summer.

Wade Fenton hasn’t paid the garbage bill for his East Huntingdon farm as a protest of mandatory collections the township initiated three years ago.

“Since 1941, we took care of our own trash. ... We burned it, buried it, whatever,’’ said Fenton, 80, who has a slew of letters and nonpayment notices from his hauler. “I’m mad. I want `em to take me to jail.’’

But township officials say the mandatory collections have helped cut down on trash problems.

Some roads were used as dumps. ... That’s ceased,’’ supervisor Howard J. Keefer said. “It’s nothing like it used to be.’’

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