I don’t have a degree in epidemiology, but I know enough about disease transmission to have been designated Health and Human Services point of contact for all U.S. doctors and hospitals seeking information on how to respond to Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever during the 2014 outbreak.
I hope this gives me enough experience to speak intelligently about the new Anne Arundel County policy of leaving full recycling bins on the county’s sidewalks if the collectors see a single plastic bag in a bin.
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From what I can extrapolate from the dozen full bins I saw left on the sidewalk as I drove the three blocks out of my neighborhood this morning, we can assume thousands of full bins have been left out all over Anne Arundel County this week.
The county claims that the sorting machines cannot handle plastic bags, but it’s not the purpose of this letter to ask about why this problem was not addressed over the last 20 years of the recycling program, nor how this newly discovered problem remarkably coincides with China’s recent decision to suspend the purchase of recyclables from the United States.
My purpose is to call attention to the fact that recycling is never all clean, and the county has just left tons of food spread out over Anne Arundel’s neighborhoods for wild animals to feed on in the spring when, conveniently enough, they’re having their babies.
Instead of most of the newborn wild animal population dying by the fall, quite a few more are going to survive. The county has provided rats, opossums, deer, rabbits, and squirrels with all the food they can eat, right out in front of our houses.
That’s a lot more meat off of which foxes, mosquitoes, ticks, and bats will prey and breed. Political leadership whose experience with wild animals amounts to Disney movies may not understand that Leptospirosis, rabies, tularemia, Lyme disease, and Zika virus are endemic to these animal populations.
On a positive note, at least Maryland doesn’t have to worry about the corresponding increased flea population bringing bubonic plague, as would be the fear in Western states with similar sudden “plastic bag processing issues.”
Even so, I’d still rather have plague than rabies.
County leadership, and unfortunately we residents, are a few months away from experiencing firsthand as to why developed societies remove trash and recycling.
Refuse collection is not for social justice purposes or making money in Asia. It is to minimize the amount of food that reaches the environment to minimize death and disability from these diseases.
Unless Anne Arundel County gets it act together and removes this trash from out in front of our houses, by the end of the summer the county and state health departments will be responding to a markedly increased incidence of these diseases.
Matthew McBride is a former senior health care policy analyst with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.