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A proposed law under consideration by the Jefferson County Board of Legislators would for the first time mandate recycling.

County officials next month will review the draft of a recommended piece of legislation submitted by the Development Authority of the North Country in March. The proposed law has gone through some revisions, and legislators are not expected to vote on the measure until February.

The new version of the law submitted by DANC is an update of a law passed in 1991. This proposed legislation is designed to reduce the amount of municipal solid waste now going to the DANC-owned landfill in Rodman, DANC Executive Director James W. Wright was quoted as saying in Monday’s issue of the Watertown Daily Times.

“We’ve acquired an awful lot of apartments since then,” Mr. Wright said, citing a housing boom as the need for further actions.

Deputy County Administrator Michael E. Kaskan told the Times that the provision compelling recycling programs to be enforced wasn’t part of the 1991 law because recycling wasn’t as prevalent then as it is today. But the increase in housing and a broadening awareness of the need to recycle over the past two decades has made enforcement more viable, Mr. Kaskan said.

“Recycling was new at the time. This law was written when these issues weren’t obvious. It’s a good thing that we’re updating it,” Mr. Kaskan said.

The idea of forcing residents and landlords to participate in recycling programs may strike some as heavy-handed. Many people want to be environmentally conscious, but they don’t want to spend an inordinate amount of time worrying about which items should be placed in which containers.

To the contrary, this is the right time to introduce more incentives to encourage recycling. And if these incentives take the form of more pestering on the part of government officials followed up eventually by fines, so be it.

We cannot continue to live as a disposable society as we have for centuries. There is not an infinite amount of space to dump trash, and throwing away certain materials hurts the environment.

Communities have operated recycling programs for years, and there is no excuse for people to put it off any longer. As with many beneficial aspects of life, the best way to get individuals to take advantage of them is through enforcement.

And Mr. Wright said that fines will not be imposed on violators until after repeated notices have been issued. This will give residents plenty of time to implement a recycling process in their homes before they get pinched in the wallet.

Recycling has saved considerable solid waste from being tossed into landfills, and it’s time to ramp up the efforts to see that more items are pulled from the waste stream.

However, the legislature should broaden its view to encourage single-source recycling in Jefferson County. Separation of recyclables mingled in a single receptacle has been adopted by many New York cities.

The result is a higher rate of compliance because families do not face the clutter of the many buckets required to sort newspapers, other paper, metal and glass. Homeowners and tenants then only have to worry about two containers, one for garbage and one for recyclables. Now is the time to revise the 22-year-old law with a reasonable plan to strengthen the requirements to recycle and at the same time make it easier to accomplish at the source of the trash — the kitchen.

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