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Editorial: Recycling prolongs landfill's useful life

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IT has been almost 14 years since the Bartholomew County Landfill opened at its current site on County Road 450S.

It took 10 years for the full process to run its course — starting with the acknowledgment that the Petersville Landfill was no longer adequate, through a contentious siting process and an even more bitter dispute with neighboring homeowners over the eventual location, finally resulting in a quiet and unheralded opening Feb. 2, 1999.

It is a process that none of those involved would want to experience again.

Yet landfills are finite in terms of lifespan, and at some point in the hopefully distant future, the county again will have to deal with a refuse area near capacity and the need to find another location.

That is one of the driving factors in an ongoing effort to promote recycling programs that can divert a tremendous amount of material from the current landfill. It is an effort that predates the 1999 opening of the facility and even the divisive period that preceded it.

Local officials deserve a great deal of credit for developing a significant number of recycling programs and educating the public about their value. Thankfully, they have had a number of important partners, including corporate and business leaders who have developed their own initiatives to cut back on the amount of materials consigned to the landfill.

Although state law prohibits certain materials, such as so-called e-waste, from being sent to the landfill, the short shelf life of many of these items poses a disposal problem for their owners. Fortunately, there is now a program available to them through a joint initiative between the Solid Waste Management District and a private company, Green Wave Computer Recycling in Indianapolis.

The program was launched last month and allows residents to drop off unwanted electronic materials at the landfill on County Road 450S or at the Columbus/Bartholomew Recycling Center at 720 S. Mapleton St. during normal operating hours.

The state law banning e-waste in landfills is only two years old. Locally officials have been recycling approximately 2,500 pounds of computer equipment each month, but that material is now being taken by the Green Wave company to facilities in Marion County, where workers can scavenge the trace amounts of precious metals and other valuable bits. The key to the success of this venture, according to company officials, is the volume of materials that can be scavenged. The company already has contracts with five counties in Indiana and 14 in western Ohio.

The real beneficiaries are local residents who will have a legal means of disposing of outdated electronic equipment.

In the long run, this and the county’s numerous other recycling programs will serve to put off further into the future a renewal of the long and frustrating process of finding a new landfill.

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