The practice of backyard trash-burning is probably as old as York County itself, but a state environmental law is slowly snuffing out that method of garbage disposal.
Carroll, Conewago and Jackson townships are the latest municipalities told to change their ways, mandated to adopt ordinances banning residents from burning trash and yard waste and requiring them to recycle under Act 101, the state's Municipal Waste Planning, Recycling and Waste Reduction Act.
While the law was adopted in 1988, municipalities must reach a certain population or population density before they must comply.
The state Department of Environmental Protection last year notified the townships that they now meet those thresholds.
Expect resistance: Of York's 72 municipalities, 55 haven't met the population requirements (5,000 people or 300 people per square mile) under which they'd be subject to the law, said DEP spokesman Kevin Sunday.
Those municipalities could still pass local ordinances to outlaw burning without DEP direction, and York County Solid Waste Authority spokeswoman Ellen O'Connor said she hopes they do.
"It's horrible for the environment," she said. "You're talking about releasing emissions with no method of cleaning the combustion air of particles or particulate matter. All the chemicals being burned, that's all going straight into the air."
But the conversion from burning to trash pickup, which officials said will require a fundamental shift in thinking for some households, hasn't been embraced by many who still burn their trash.
"We're all rural," said Conewago Township manager Lou Anne Bostic. "We're used to doing things a certain way."
About half of the Conewago's 2,800 households already pay for trash pickup. Those who remain would have to subscribe, and they've bemoaned the change while realizing there's little they can do to resist a state mandate, she said.
The changes must be made by the start of the new year, so Conewago's board of supervisors is reviewing its draft ordinance and could vote on it during its May 7 meeting.
Elsewhere: Residents in Carroll Township have differing positions on the change, said township manager Connie Flasher.
"There's always people who are going to be upset if they can't burn, but there are also people who get upset if people are burning, with kids who have asthma and that sort of thing," she said.
In Jackson Township, Supervisor David Brown said he's worried about older residents who are on a fixed income.
While his family pays for trash pickup, it's unfair for an elderly widow with one "tiny bag of trash" per week to be charged the same as a family of five, he said.
Jackson's board of supervisors is likely next month to adopt an ordinance banning outdoor burning of leaves and other rubbish after June 1.
Recycling free: With nowhere to go with their trash, Jackson Township manager Bill Conn said the new rule will probably force the estimated 1,000 households that don't currently have curbside pickup into paying the $52 per quarter fee to get it.
If it doesn't, an ordinance slated for later this year would essentially require it, he said.
He said about two-thirds of the township's 3,000 households have already signed up for curbside pickup the township offers through Penn Waste.
Residents are currently allowed to burn trash, leaves, and other rubbish, but the first round of law changes is up for consideration at the township's Tuesday, May 7 board of supervisors meeting.
Conn said the township's taxpayers will also field other costs because of the changes.
The township is buying an automatic transmission dump truck ($125,000 over the five-year life of the lease), and two leaf boxes and a leaf vacuum ($48,000) so it can start handling curbside yard waste and leaves this fall, Conn said.
Officials are submitting an application to the DEP for grants, "but there's no money up front and there's no guarantee we'll get any money period," Conn said.
- Reach Christina Kauffman at email@example.com.