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Take the time to recycle and reduce the load
A pile of trash sits along a Gainesville neighborhood street. - photo by Tom Reed

Gainesville is testing a pilot trash pick-up program, picking up household garbage once a week instead of the two times a week many residents had gotten used to.

But residents are throwing out garbage as if the trucks are still coming twice a week. As a result, 700 tons of garbage — the amount that would fill 108 full-sized school buses — is going into the Hall County landfill every day.

Many communities already have once-a-week pickup, or residents drop their trash off at compactor sites. But no matter whether the garbage is picked up at your house or not, everyone can benefit from reducing the amount of what they throw away.

Smooshing bag after bag of trash into your garbage can is not only a pain, but it puts tons of needless garbage into our local landfills. And many bags picked up in Gainesville, according to the city’s solid waste superintendant, are filled with recyclable materials.

"We can see in the bags that we pick up there’s a lot of plastic and aluminum cans that could be recycled," said Dan Owen with Gainesville’s Public works department. "If they would, they could tremendously increase their volume of recycling and (decrease) what we put in the landfill."

It just takes the effort to do it, he said. As a result, it’s caused the workers to make more trips to the landfill.

"It’s really slowed us down because what we’re running into now is ... the volume," he said. "The people have a week’s worth instead of three days worth, so it’s taking two guys to go up every driveway and they are coming down loaded with garbage."

How can you reduce your trash? Here are a few easy steps to take that will mean less waste and more room in the landfill.

Create a compost pile

This could make a big difference in the yard trash that the city picks up, Owen said. And they can be inexpensively made using bins or wood scraps.

"A simple compost pile can be made by using four shipping pallets — the wooden ones. That makes a pretty good bin" said Rick Foote, natural resources coordinator for Hall County. "We’ve actually got three sample bins on display."

One is a bin made of the wooden pallets, stood on end and anchored together with screws or ties. Some people even use nylon stockings to attach the ends, Foote said.

Or, try an inexpensive wire bin made out of metal fencing such as chicken wire. A pricier option is a plastic bin with a tight-fitting lid.

Reduce and reuse

On the website, there are tips to reduce your household garbage to just one can a month — think you’re up to the challenge? The trick is recycling and reusing items you typically wouldn’t think of.

"You can reuse toothbrushes for handyman tasks around the house — hobbyists or whatnot. They make excellent little brushes for nooks and crannies," Foote said. "I’m a cyclist, and I use them for cleaning my bike parts."

Recycle wherever you can

A quick trip to the bathroom trash can will reveal plenty of things that can be recycled or composted.

Foote said paper towels, tissues, napkins and paper plates are all biodegradeable.

"They will break down a lot easier if they aren’t coated; those will take longer to break down," he said. "I would also encourage folks to not just recycle odd things; when they purchase items, if they give it some forethought, they can purchase items in packaging that they know is recyclable."

Don’t forget to recycle those tissue boxes and toilet paper rolls in the bathroom, and donate used clothes.

Getting the whole family involved lets the kids help with recycling and composting while using their creativity, Owen added.

"I use a PowerPoint program in the schools to encourage the kids to recycle because the kids’ parents are our customers and they pay for the recycling," he said.

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