Picking trash in Levy County — immortal trash

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By Ed Emrich

I hate trash. I really do! I notice how people discard items out of their vehicle windows or how they allow trash to blow out the beds of their trucks. Take a look around during dear hunting season and you will see an increase of empty plastic deer corm, dog food and ice bags along the roadside. Are some hunters unconcerned because they believe that the plastic bags will be picked up by road crews or picked up by concerned citizens who work to keep the Nature Coast natural. Maybe "Litter Bugs" believe that the plastic will eventually dissolve into the landscape and disappear. So what is the life expectancy of plastic trash? How long does it take for plastic to deteriorate and disappear into the landscape? According to my research, the short answer is NEVER! Plastic trash is in fact IMMORTAL!

Plastic bags and bottles are made from a petroleum based synthetic material, Polyethylene Terephthalate or PET for short. PET plastic is not subject to the same digestive forces or biodegradation created by the earth's soil. PET materials only break up into smaller and smaller pieces over time as it reacts to sunlight, wind and rain. Scientists estimate that PET plastic will require from 450 -1000 years to break up and coat the landscape. This is all bad news for wildlife or any life that depends on the landscape for food and water. Land and water based animals like the earth's soil cannot digest PET plastic. Unfortunately animals ingest plastic waste and starve as their stomachs fill with plastic which blocks the nutrients they need for survival.

All this is bad news and more justification to recycle or at least deposit PET plastic in designated landfills and not let it become part of a toxic landscape.

Some cities are making serious efforts to control plastic waste. San Francisco, California has banned plastic bags and the ban will soon be implemented statewide. Florida legislators are watching California closely to determine the feasibility of similar action.

Did you see the recent Gainesville television news story featuring Levy counties' back roads filling with trash? It appears that trash dumping in Levy County is reaching an epidemic stage.

The Chamber of Commerce may need to rewrite their tourism brochure to prepare visitors for what they will encounter here on the Trash Coast where every kind solid waste, old furniture and even discarded boats can be viewed from the comfort of your vehicle. Unfortunately, solid waste control is not a unique problem for local governments but, like the psychiatrists said, "the only difference between us and them is intensity and duration."

I was curious about how solid waste is being managed in the tri-county area so I made some phone calls and this is what I found. In Levy county with a population 39,469 there is one (1) transfer station located between Bronson and Williston where you can deliver bags of trash for a fee of $.75 each. In Northern Levy county your options are to drive the 20+ miles and pay a per/bag fee or pay for curbside trash pick-up at $30 a month minimum without recycling. In Dixie county population 16,203 there are eight (8) transfer stations funded by a $135 solid waste tax on real estate. In Gilchrist County, population 17,199 there are three transfer stations funded by an $80 solid waste tax on real estate.

It would appear at first glance that some of our solid waste difficulties are of our own creation by under serving the population of Levy County. Of the three counties surveyed, Levy County is the largest in terms of population and physical size and yet there is only one transfer station. Levy county property owners did pay a $25 annual solid waste property tax, but I read in the Chiefland Citizen that has been discontinued as of the last property tax cycle. It would appear the solid waste services in Levy county will not be improving in the foreseeable future. Trash will continue to be dumped along our highways, at the recycling trailers and back roads, and wildlife and our way of life will unfortunately deteriorate, at a rate much faster than the PET plastic deteriorates.

That is why the citizens of Levy County must become active about our trash problem because trash in Levy County is everybody's problem. So I encourage everyone to safely pitch in and pick it up, and if you see something or someone dumping trash say something to local officials. Also, encourage our local government officials to increase solid waste services in Levy County at least on par with our neighboring counties.

Trash Pickers Unite!

Stay Strong America!