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Not a trashy recession

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by Larry S. Chowning

Where has all the trash gone?

If there’s one good thing about the sluggish economy, it’s that people are not using the Middlesex County trash transfer stations nearly as much.

According to a Middle Peninsula solid waste quantities report, the total amount of solid waste now being disposed of by county residents is down considerably.

For example, the total tons delivered to Middlesex transfer stations in FY08 was 9,987. It is anticipated that by the end of FY09, the total will be 8,800 tons—a decrease of about 1,100 tons of trash.

The amount of tonnage peaked just before the national recession. In FY05 Middlesex residents threw away 11,246 tons of trash; FY06, 11,655 tons; and in FY07, 11,455 tons.

The sharp decrease in FY08 may have been a sign of the coming recession.

The highest year in Middlesex trash collection history was FY04 when 13,292 tons were delivered to the four distribution sites in the county. This was due mostly to Hurricane Isabel, which tore the county apart in September of 2003. Much of the cleanup items from the storm went to waste collection sites.

Assistant Middlesex County Administrator Marcia Jones said county officials began seeing a decrease in trash when gas jumped up to $4 per gallon last year. “People weren’t coming down to the river as much,” she said.

“It’s also a sign of the times in that people aren’t buying big televisions and other items that produce a lot of trash,” Jones said. “I think people are being cautious [about throwing things away], and it’s reflected in the amount of trash we are getting.”

Jones also noted that people are getting more conscious about recycling, and the county has been able to send some would-be trash to recycling bins.

Another positive is that Middlesex taxpayers pay for trash by the ton, and even though the cost of just about everything else is going up, less tons means less cost to the county.

Middle Peninsula Planning District director Dan Kavanagh said, “I would guess it has to do with visitation to the county. The peak months for trash are in the summer when people are coming down to use their boats and visit their summer homes. With this economy, I suspect they are not coming down as often. This decline in trash is true of not just Middlesex, but in all the surrounding counties.

“It’s all how you look at it, but it’s a good thing in that we are not generating as much trash,” Kavanagh said. “It means people are not throwing away beer cans, but it also means people are not buying as much beer. We hope too that people are becoming more conscious about recycling.”

posted 05.21.2009

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