Monday, October 17, 2005

Recycling Is Junk

Does anyone actually remember the good old days when everything just went into garbage cans and tossed into the back of a big stinky truck? The big stinky truck is still around, of course, but the rules of the disposal game have gotten a bit more complex. Nowadays we have waste disposals in our kitchen sinks, and a lot of us have gotten away from garbage cans in favor of just tossing everything into plastic liners. Those are the things that can make garbage night less of a hassle.

On the other hand, there is the dreaded R word: Recycling. At my old residence, we were required to separate plastic from glass from aluminum from tin from paper. All in the name of progress. And everything had to be in clear plastic bags, at least three feet away from regular garbage. To what end was never clear to me, though it does make one suspect that hordes of policemen roamed the residential neighborhoods in the wee hours of the night checking to make sure that everyone had properly separated everything. What if we hadn't? Were they going to kick down our doors and arrest us? It sounds paranoid, but with new laws in effect you just can't be too careful. You also can't underestimate the fascistic tendencies of the environmentalism movement.

In the community where I have resided for the past ten years, the rules are a bit more lax. Recycling is mandatory, but the municipality provides each household with a bin in which to put recyclables -- and these do not need to be separated. It's nice. We, the citizens, do less work, and everyone benefits from renewing renewable resources. Right?

Not really. An article in this morning's Trib looks at recycling in Pittsburgh area communities and finds that this mandatory environmental friendliness has a price. Here's how one borough got out of the game, and how much it benefits by doing so:

As soon as Tarentum's population fell below the state threshold for providing curbside recycling, Borough Manager Jeff Thomas convinced council to do away with the curbside collection.

The borough still offers municipal recycling, but residents use bins near borough offices. In return, Tarentum saves about $25,000 annually in labor, maintenance and fuel.

"The curbside recycling program was just a nightmare," Thomas said. "When it first started, (legislators) said, 'You're going to make money out of this.' We were never making money. I don't know any (curbside) recycling program that makes money."

Twenty-five thousand dollars? We're looking at some serious jack here. I could pay off my mortgage with that amount. And all you need to do to get out of spending that kind of money on curbside pickup is to have your municipality's population drop below some state-mandated level? Balkanization can be a good thing.

The entire article is worth a read to see what kind of costs other communities are incurring for recycling, and just how difficult the entire process is for both residents and recycling companies. There is even a list of recycling tips at the end, which includes a bit of good news for me: Don't rinse recyclables! I've been doing that for years because my former municipality insisted that everything be clean for pickup. Now, apparently, the recyclers do that themselves.

There is also a stool pigeon hotline number, about which I have one thing to say: Don't be a jagoff. Anyone who snitches on their neighbors about something as silly as that deserves to burn in the deepest pit of hell.

1 comment:

jipzeecab said...

I would have titled your post "joke" instead of "junk".
Originally Bethel Park, the community I live in recycled two things; glass in orange crates and cans in black crates..This went on for several years until the residents realized both crates were being emptied into the same bin.
Then a reporter discovered that the recycler was dumping all the recyclables into a landfill. The recycler went bankrupt and the borough continues to this day to collect the recyclables.
About two years ago we were told to start recycling newspapers. Instead of crates we were told to put the newspapers in grocery type brown paper bags, which as near as I can tell no one ever does. Occasionally I watch the pickup and the "paper" goes in the same pickup bin as the cans and glass.
Part of the problem is most of these environmentally friendly efforts are supported by short term federal subsidies created back when liberals ran the Congress. When the subsidy grant runs out the recycler(usually one of Al Gore's friends) can no longer make any money because that was where his profit was coming from and he goes out of business leaving the communities served high and dry.(that doesn't quite sound right in a post Katrina world.)