Clearing the Way

by Heather Rae

This past week I went by my town office to pick up a copy of the guidelines for the town’s “holding area.” In Montgomery County, Maryland this place was called “the beauty spot,” a rural transfer station for waste to be, more or less, properly disposed. It was proven to be an easy, cost-effective and, yes, beautifying alternative to mattress-and-old-stove-by-the-side-of-the-country-road and the oil-and-paint-in-the-yard dumping. It was also a great place to swap usable items. I don’t recall a fee for disposal of anything at “the beauty spot” nor the waste transfer station in Gaithersburg where I took the household trash that couldn’t be composted; it was covered through taxes. Still, at our farmhouse, the previous owner had dug a giant hole on the property and burned and buried his trash there, instructing our neighbors not to spill the beans to the new owners, us. The neighbors fessed up that the ever-sinking depression in the lawn next to the cheesily constructed greenhouse was our personal dump. The lawn dumper was a doctor who wore overalls and doused his garden with herbicides and pesticides the smell of which would drift over to the homes of these neighbors who gardened organically and harvested honey from their own bee hives.
At my town office, a man in line repeatedly refered to the transfer station as “the dump” and he was repeatedly corrected by the clerk, “the holding area.” I paid my $1.00 fee for a “Dump Sticker” (looks like they need to work on branding) and perused the regulations on the walk home. There are three piles growing in my yard — one of wood without paint, one of painted wood, one of cement chunks (the old front steps that someone scattered around the property.) There’s also a 100 cubic foot dumpster that I filled to the gills with rubbish, trash, refuse hauled out from above, in and under the old summer kitchen. That dumpster alone is expected to cost me $400 for disposal. I have cornered a pile of usable items indoors like lighting ballasts and curtain rods that will go to one of the building materials outlets, Building Materials Exchange or Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore.
And, someday I will have a collection of dead compact fluorescent bulbs. Per the “holding area” regulations, these bulbs are UNACCEPTABLE WASTES and should be dropped off at another site where I will be charged $.50 per lamp. It’s not like the bulbs are the only unacceptable waste…all that wood covered in lead paint can’t be beautified. And I should separate out the treated wood. The more I try to figure out the “holding area” regulations, the more confused I become about what can go where and what costs what to heave and who can actually do the heaving. Some aspects of upper Montgomery County, Maryland, I could do without, like the politics, but I can tell you this: I sure do miss “the beauty spot.”

Other Goings On This Week:
While the EU is urging the US to get real about climate change, and the courts have ruled that the EPA does have oversight over carbon dioxide, Rush Limbaugh continues to rant about climate change as a hoax perpetuated by Hollywood liberals and Al Gore and their friends in the Supreme Court.

Heather Rae, a contributor to cleantechblog.com, manages a ‘whole house’ home performance program in Maine. In 2006, she built a biobus and drove it from Colorado to Maine. In 2007, she begins renovation of an 1880 farmhouse using building science and green building principles.

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