Wednesday, August 15, 2012

We Can't Throw Anything Away

We live in a complex world.
That is not much of a surprise to many, but sometimes, in the interest of 'doing the right thing' unintended consequences result.

Fill it up once baby!
For example, the city where I live has a trash policy where each house is allowed a 64 gallon container for trash. We also have a small recycling bin and they allow you to put bottles, cans and plastic in another container. In the warmer months, they also pick up yard waste.

Out of all of these options, the yard waste has become the most beneficial as there are no limits to what they will take within reason. For example, I use two regular size trash barrels (you know the ones they USED to take for trash) and fill them up with lawn clippings, weeds, etc. This is better than using those infernal paper bags that Home Depot and others sell. Those are a pain to use especially if it's windy.

The worst part of all this so-called waste reduction is there is still the same amount of trash and refuse as there was before this program was instituted.  I don't have stats to back this up, but my guess is that everyone still has the same amount of stuff (or more) to throw away as they did before.

What does this mean?
Well, you can recycle bottles and cans, cardboard and plastic and separate them out from everyday refuse. That's fine, I think recycling is a wonderful idea in principal, I'm not so sure how practical it is, but that's another subject. Yes, we should all try to reduce the amount of waste we generate, but I'm not sure restricting what you can throw out each week is the answer.

Point #1. Water.

We've all been told that bottled water is better for us, so for the past 20 years or so, everyone buys water. Which means everyone also has to dispose the containers. Which means more waste. Everyone walks around with water bottles these days, and they are all over the place. On the ground. Funny how you don't see any 'stop pollution' commercials these days when everyone is 'supposed' to be so environmentally conscious. Yet people continue to toss water bottles around all over the place. So what's been solved there?

Whatever happened to the litterbug?
It's a simplistic idea, but shouldn't we have put all this energy into making tap water the best resource? I mean, look, if we had the confidence that our municipal water was the best, purest, and safest water, that alone would reduce at least 2/3rds of the waste. Wouldn't it? I know, people walk around with bottled water all day. Well, use a reusable container. Problem solved.

Point#2. Replacing Appliances.

I'd love to replace some old appliances in our house. Problem is, when I do decide to replace them, it's a huge pain getting rid of the old ones. The city wants me to call a local trash company and pay for them to come haul them away. For a fee of course. We used to be able to put things like old appliance and mattresses out with the regular trash and they would take them. For bigger items like refrigerators you had to call for a separate pickup, but there was no fee. Now, we have to pay.

We still have to get rid of the old whatever we're replacing so what results are two different solutions if you don't pay:

1) You put off replacing these items.
2) People replace them, then dump the old ones somewhere like in a field or a vacant lot. What does THAT solve?

For example, environmentalists would love for me to replace my old toilets with these new low flow units that use less water and we go 'better for the environment' but I balk because I really don't want two old toilets sitting around in outside my house for a week or longer. Then I have to pay for the privilege. And I'm certainly not going to toss them into a random lot somewhere.

Another option is to bring the stuff to another town that doesn't restrict what you can toss. If you're lucky enough to know someone who lives in a city or town where they still take everything, you can bring it there, but here's another conundrum:

We all want to use less gas so most of us drive smaller vehicles, therefore, most of us don't have the means to haul a refrigerator or two toilets to another town. So if you don't know someone with a pickup truck, you're outta luck there too.

The point is, these environmental restrictions have consequences that inconvenience people and actually hamper the economy because people don't go out and remodel as much because the costs of getting rid of stuff is getting too high.

But what about the environment?
Aren't I being shortsighted by worrying about my little space instead of the future of the planet? Well, I'm not so convinced by all the environmentalist dogma that we are 'destroying the planet'. Yes, as I mentioned, we should be looking into better ways to reuse old objects and so forth. I'm all for it, but please spare me the zealotry about reducing my carbon footprint and all that crap. But again, that's a discussion for another time.

This just came in my email today:
IMPORTANT Dates to remember:
  • Tues Aug 21st; Solid Waste & Recycling Advisory Committee Mtg; City Hall 6:30 PM
  • Sat Aug 25th; Used/Waste Oil {& more} Drop-Off (8-noon) at Waste Water Plant
  • Mon Sept 3rd; Labor Day; curbside collection Holiday Schedule: 'one day delay'
  • Sat Sept 8th; Household Hazardous Waste Day; 9 AM - 1 PM
This is a perfect example of what I'm talking about; Household Hazardous Waste Day means you schlep all your hazardous waste down there and wait in line to get rid of it.

Either way, it all means one thing:


No matter what they try, it still does not reduce the amount of stuff that gets replaced.

All this does is cost us taxpayers MORE MONEY.

The green movement is doing nothing but costing people more money. If I want to get rid of something, I have to pay. Here's a list of the fees:
· Appliances, like stoves, washers, driers and dishwashers will be $17;
· Freon items like: fridges, freezers, A/Cs and dehumidifiers will cost $17 each;
· TVs and computer monitors smaller than 26 inches will be $12 and those larger will cost $22;
· Passenger tires and propane tanks will cost only $7;
· Misc items like small electronics (laptops, VCR, DVD player) are all $5 each;
· Furniture pieces, like mattresses, box springs, couches, futons and tables will cost $12.
And the company that hauls all the stuff away makes money on the items we pay them to take. And the city has a contract with the trash hauler, so they make money on that contract. Who gets stuck with the bill? We do. So every time I need to get rid of one of these items, I pay for the privilege when I thought all along my taxes covered things like this. 

Silly me.

Then there's overflow bags for when the 64 gallon container isn't enough. For a fee of course:
The purple ‘overflow’ bags will be available in local markets, retailers, convenience and grocery stores after Valentine’s Day. The 33-gallon draw-string bags come in 5 packs for $7.50 [a roll] and are intended for all refuse that does not fit in the wheeled cart. Trash inside the carts does not require ‘purple’ bags, but should be bagged. Per DOR there is no Mass sales tax added to the purchase price of bags.
How nice of them not to tax the bags, someone at the state house screwed up on that one. I bet they'll figure that out and lay a tax on them at some point after everyone is not paying attention.

And of course the official explanation is to SAVE US MONEY!!!! Oh Joy. Whenever any municipality or government agency tells you, the taxpayer, that they are implementing any program that will SAVE US MONEY, it will COST YOU MORE. Especially here in Massachusetts.

Here's the reason they changed to this new system in my city on their website:
1. What is the reason for the change in garbage collection?
Automation has been shown to reduce operating costs, improve the appearance of our neighborhoods, and reduce injuries to workers.
There was a $4.5 million deficit between resident fees and the cost to provide solid waste collection to all 26,500 eligible households. Those deficit dollars should be going to schools, roads, infrastructure, etc. 
This program was implemented in March of 2009. The residential property tax rate in my city jumped from $13.27 per $1000 in 2010 to $14.77 in 2011 so it appears that this plan is not saving any money. Now I'm not going to say that the tax increase is solely based on trash removal, but every single politician always sells the public on how much any given program will save them. Once again, taxes increase.

Sounds like the part about improving the appearance of our neighborhoods backfired too. People who don't want to pay to get rid of something will just dump it somewhere.

Here are some recent news clippings from the city where I live:

City officials made it abundantly clear this summer that they are not taking illegal dumping of furniture and other items lightly. And now they are trying to add some bite to their bark. Anyone caught illegally dumping furniture and other items will be subject to a $100 fine for a first offense and a $200 fine for a second offense if the City Council adopts the recommendation made last night by its Neighborhood/Traffic/Recycling/Utilities subcommittee.
Anyone caught illegally dumping furniture and other items will be subject to a $100 fine for a first offense and a $200 fine for a second offense if the City Council adopts the recommendation of its Neighborhood/Traffic/Recycling/Utilities subcommittee. That three-member subcommittee voted unanimously Thursday night to recommend the stiffer penalties after hearing reports all summer of illegal dumping throughout the city's streets and neighborhoods. 
City officials have captured and will turn over to police photographic evidence of three incidents of people illegally dumping furniture and other items at an empty lot on Saturday, officials said yesterday. The city documented the illegal dumping in the neighborhood by utilizing surveillance cameras set up at the site earlier this month. In addition to the mattresses, the suspects also allegedly deposited box springs and mattresses. 

So much for that point!

And the last line of the reason for the change in garbage collection was to save money so deficit dollars can fund schools, roads, infrastructure, etc. Yet the taxes still increased.

What a surprise!!

Perhaps the solution is to pickup items like mattresses, small appliances and furniture a few times a year at residences to help curb issues like illegal dumping. I know some people won't pay any attention or won't want to wait, but the majority who try to play by the rules might benefit. This may also spur people into replacing older less energy efficient appliances without having to worry how to get rid of the old ones. Isn't that a win-win with people buying new items and replacing inefficient appliances?

The bottom line is the old saw about the road to hell is paved with good intentions (and old TVs and mattresses) certainly applies here. All these feel good laws and policies have, as I said, unintended consequences that ultimately hurt our economy.

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