What will society look like in 20 years? How will that future affect solid waste, or more important, how will solid waste affect the future?
There are no clear-cut answers, but we have to effectively plan and anticipate those needs and proceed accordingly. As a whole, solid waste is but a portion of the overall picture; but as the population grows and there is less land available and fewer landfills, new solutions must be explored.
Solid waste management over the past 40 years has changed dramatically. Federal laws passed in the 1960s started to slowly change how we manage our solid waste.
In the United States, the practice of digging a hole, putting garbage in it and then burning it once a week was slowly on its way out. What is now called integrated solid waste management was taking a foothold.
The garbage barge of 1987 had a profound impact on solid waste and recycling. The media coverage that the Mobro 4000 barge (which traveled the Atlantic coast with its unwanted trash for months in 1987) brought into the limelight led most states, within the next three years, to pass laws requiring some kind of municipal recycling.
Grass roots organizations such as the GrassRoots Recycling Network and the Solid Waste Association of North America promoted change on a national level.
The National Recycling Coalition created America Recycles Day in 1997. America Recycles Day is held Nov. 15 each year and is the only nationally recognized day dedicated to encouraging Americans to recycle and purchase recycled products. Raising the national consciousness was at the forefront for the coalition and others trying to seek to redesign the way resources and materials flow through society.
Recycling has been promoted and practiced for many years in various ways and methods. It must continue into the future as a viable alternative to filling up our landfills. The next 20 to 40 years will see regulations that promote advancement in the concept of "zero waste." As we plan for the long term of solid waste management, let us aim for sustainable, energy-producing, environmentally balanced systems.
Hernando County's Utilities Department, Solid Waste Division, encourages all Hernando County residents to recycle and keep Hernando County green. If you do not live in the curbside recycling service area, there are 15 convenient dropoff locations where you can dispose of your items.
For information, visit www.hernandocounty.us/utils or call 754-4112.
Scott Harper is solid waste services manager for the Hernando County Utilities Department.