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Mayor Vic Nussbaum has expressed frustration with the city staff's slow progress on setting out newspaper collection bins. He could easily take his complaint further. Even with the new bins, Greensboro tinkers in the dark ages of recycling while other metropolitan areas make real progress.Back in November, the City Council approved nearly $140,000 for - among other things - additional collection bins for recyclables. Two months and a few critical words later, the new dumpsters are finally being put into place.

But collection bins represent the most passive solid waste strategy possible. The balky process that finally got the bins in place illustrates the city's inertia in confronting a solid waste nightmare.

One in three of the nation's landfills is expected to fill up in the next two to three years. Cities everywhere will be searching for garbage space. Greensboro's landfill has a longer life expectancy than most, but the land crunch will eventually have the same effect here as everywhere else.

Yet to date the city has been able to muster only a handful of newspaper collection sites in response to the crisis. Greensboro is one of the two remaining major cities in North Carolina without curbside pickup of reusable trash. The other, Winston-Salem, has just received a citizen task force recommendation that curbside pick-up be established in Forsyth County. The program couldbegin as early as June.

Greensboro residents are ready for a similar program. Newspaper collection at city bins has more than doubled in the past year. City workers are putting in overtime just to keep up.

Earlier this month Charlotte expanded its pilot recycling program. The Queen City will now pick up newspapers, aluminum cans and plastic drink bottles voluntarily set out by any of Charlotte's 97,000 home-owners who wish to participate. The city thus encourages conservation.

Meanwhile, Greensboro residents who wish to save landfill space must search out recycling stations just to dispose of their newspapers. Let's hope more aggressive measures are taken before the garbage overtakes us.


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