GUEST APPEARANCE: Greening a Prescription | Opinion

Sometimes the problems we face seem to have common sense answers. And yet the discussion can become strangely political. And what many will call common sense approaches are becoming seemingly impossible to implement.

A shining example in my mind is our landfill woes. We complain about the smell that wafts our way or interrupts road trips east and west. We don’t like the landscape that includes a mountain that wasn’t there ten years ago. We hate the trucks that roam our streets, often themselves leaky and smelly, due to their own freight.

Many approaches are needed to contain these issues surrounding our landfills. But there is something we can achieve as individuals – and more powerfully – together, as a city: reduce what we send there.

Individual practices that contribute to this effort can be multiplied by municipal policies that encourage the diversion of waste to greener disposal – rewarding practices like composting organic waste, reusing materials and recycling where we can. .

Certainly, all of this is permitted under the laws that we have in place. But the impact of a single person is the proverbial straw against a forest fire. Impact is more measurable when larger groups, like entire cities, act together.

For reasons unrelated to landfill or the environment, Geneva is in the process of modifying its ordinance which stipulates the number of carriers our city will allow. In my mind it is irresponsible to talk about our trash and only talk about who can pick it up and how much we will charge them to do it. If we are developing a solid waste ordinance when the environment around the world is suffering and our own local landfills are considering closure dates – it certainly makes sense to include provisions that can reduce our need for these facilities.

The concept of mandate is controversial for many good reasons. But what about incentives? For example, what if a carrier is rewarded for diverting waste from landfill? What if residents save money when they reduce what they make available to carriers? These simple adjustments to our ordinance would encourage rather than force. Carriers would pay less if they implemented policies such as “pay to throw away”, in which customers are only charged when their landfill bin is set up for pickup (a policy that one of the Geneva carriers , Lyons Road Trash, already has in place). It would include a discount for haulers who add organic waste pick-up for drop-off at the new Geneva Resource Recovery Park (a service the park operator was recently authorized by the Board to provide).

As part of an incentive program, residents who do not wish to undertake the process of sorting their waste would not be liable to any fine. Carriers who do not follow the city’s preferred unloading practices could continue as always. No city employee would need to be on the streets to check the trash cans. But those who maintain practices that help reduce what the landfill gets would be rewarded with lower fees. Similar incentives could be put in place to prevent construction and demolition debris from unnecessarily filling landfills.

These suggestions are, at best, baby steps to deal with this situation. But beyond the diversion of waste from landfill that would result from these practices, putting these incentives into our ordinance would finally signal recognition of the environmental reality we face. This would encourage education and a better understanding by all of what we can do as individuals. It would provide the impact of many, beyond the drop in the bucket of the few.

In other words, it’s common sense.

Jan Regan represents Ward 3 on the Geneva City Council.