By Kaylee Lindenmuth
If you’ve ever been out for a walk in a town’s central business district, whether it’s a 5,000 hamlet like in the Anthracite Region or a major city like in the Lehigh Valley, you’ve probably noticed trash receptacles are commonplace. In the larger municipalities, they’re often accompanied by recycling bins.
They provide a place for pedestrians to throw away their empty water bottles, food wrappers and other items. When littering becomes the convenient option in the face of holding onto trash for the remainder of a trip, you might find these items curbside or in a shrub. Therefore, these bins act as a deterrent to littering.
Central business districts are often plagued by litter, as they are often the town’s hub of events and activities. Towns prefer to have a beautiful, vibrant, bustling downtown, and litter detracts from that. After all, even the most beautiful landscaping can be ruined if a rogue Dollar General bag gets snagged in a bush.
With that being said, wouldn’t it make sense for a town to take every step it can to deter litterbugs and take away every potential excuse they may have?
Well, take a walk down Main Street in Kutztown, and you’ll be challenged to find any public trash or recycling bins. A handful of businesses place their own for the use of their customers or passersby, though they are few and far inbetween.
It’s a different landscape an hour-and-a-half north of here in Bloomsburg. Along their Main Street, you’ll find pairs of trash and recycling bins throughout their 10-block business district. At least one pair is present per block.
Bloomsburg, home to Bloomsburg University, a fellow PASSHE school, has a downtown with similar characteristics to Kutztown’s.
The trend among college towns and their downtown areas appears to favor the placement of trash bins. Annville in Lebanon County, Selinsgrove in Snyder County and Lock Haven in Clinton County all place trash bins throughout their downtown areas; however, none place recycling bins. The towns are home to Lebanon Valley College, Susquehanna University and Lock Haven University, respectively.
College towns aren’t the only smaller towns in the Commonwealth to have downtown trash cans, though.
In Schuylkill County, Shenandoah and Mahanoy City both have trash cans placed throughout their central business districts. In fact, Shenandoah has two sets: one placed by the borough and
another by the Shenandoah Rotary Club. These two towns have a similar year-round population to Kutztown borough.
So, why is our town among the few which do not provide a place for downtown visitors to toss their hot dog wrappers and soda cans?
Is the cost to purchase and install the bins prohibitive, or are the maintenance costs an issue? Would it obstruct pedestrians walking along the tighter sidewalks of West Main Street, or do businesses feel they would be a nuisance if placed? Or, contrarily, do businesses want them?
Maybe it’s a combination, though our students, our parents, our friends and our neighbors deserve better than nothing. They deserve to have a clean downtown space which is free of litter while providing plenty of opportunities to dispose of trash properly.