Commentary: Trash? Rubbish!

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(Sacramento, CA)
Friday, February 17, 2006

Stop! Don't throw those used batteries into the trash can. Or that burned out fluorescent light tube either, and certainly not your broken cell phone or the kid's worn out shoes - you know, those cute ones that blink when he jumps up and down.

California's Universal Waste law went into full effect this month. It makes the dumping of such common household items illegal. Violation could result in penalties as high as $25,000 per day per violation. But, don't worry. The trash police at the state and local levels tell me they don't intend to enforce the law against ordinary householders - well, not yet anyway.

The goal of this law is laudable, I guess. Many of the devices newly banned from the trash contain lead, mercury, arsenic and other toxic materials. When crushed in landfills they may leach into underground water supplies.

But if this new brand of hazardous waste poses such a serious danger, the government should come up with a serious strategy for dealing with it - which means, cheap, convenient ways for people to either dispose of it or recycle. Until then, most of us will continue to do what we've always done - dump it in the trash.


Ginger Rutland writes for the Sacramento Bee Opinion pages.