Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Talkin' Trash


The Village of Cobleskill’s new contract with Vet’s Waste Hauling and the new restrictions that go along with it belong in one place: the trash. Unfortunately, Vet’s Disposal would probably go through the bag and decide for some reason to leave it behind.
The solution: write a new law covering residential, apartment and commercial waste and remove the restriction requiring clear bags and no bulk items. Unless the Village is going to drastically reduce taxes, there’s no justification for reducing services in this manner. Collecting the trash is a basic municipal function, this shouldn’t even be an issue!

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

A little outside-the-box thinking is called for in order to reach a fair arrangement for owners of private residences, owners of income property and owners of business properties.

For example, from http://www.epa.gov/epaoswer/non-hw/payt/intro.htm: "Traditionally, residents pay for waste collection through property taxes or a fixed fee, regardless of how much—or how little—trash they generate. Pay-as-you-throw (PAYT) breaks with tradition by treating trash services just like electricity, gas, and other utilities. Households pay a variable rate depending on the amount of service they use."

Sean Thomaston said...

Pay-as-you-throw should certainly be on the table as an option, but from my personal experience with it (I'm a part-time resident of Ithaca which uses a PAYT system) it can be problematic. First off, the best thing about it is that it creates a strong incentive to minimize your household's waste stream (recycling and donating reusable items for example). However, at the same time, some household's can not realistically reduce their waste stream, say a single-parent household with multiple children. There just isn't the time to worry about these things. As a result, people can be unfairly penalized for being poor and not having the time to wash out cans and bottles and figure out that cardboard milk cartons are supposed to go with the containers and NOT other recyclable paper and all the other fun, time-consuming joys of recycling.

Secondly, whenever you take away a service that people have long taken for granted (and rightfully so in my view), they are going to find ways around it. With PAYT there is a tendency for people to simply dump trash around the town to avoid paying, or to dump household trash in public trash cans. So it incentivizes bad behavior as well. Then you need to start policing public trash cans.

In my experience, it just makes the whole process unnecessarily confusing, and from what I can tell, getting individuals to recycle more is not the problem, it's getting haulers and municipalities to find users for the recyclable materials they collect, rather than just keeping plastics #1 and 2, and throwing away the rest.

We shouldn't be looking for ways to make waste pick-up more confusing and complicated, especially in a community where people aren't exactly banging down doors to get in.

I agree that "outside-the-box thinking" is necessary. However, the problem doesn't start at curbside, the problem begins with how much crap we as Americans consume, and how we have been conditioned to be a throwaway culture. There are a lot of things we can do to reduce our waste stream, but keep in mind that at the end of the day, municipal solid waste, while increasing, makes up a small category of our total national waste.

I'm not sure PAYT is the answer. Personally, I'd like to see Cobleskill look into building a Pnuematic Refuse Conveying System as was apparently built in Stockholm, Sweden. Check it out "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pneumatic_refuse_conveying_system".
Our waste disposal problems are solved!

Anonymous said...

I agree that we “shouldn't be looking for ways to make waste pick-up more confusing and complicated” but there are only so many dollars available to pay for trash pickup. The public pays for it either way, whether it’s through a municipal contract or whether it’s a private, direct arrangement between the hauler and the household.

I sympathize with your image of the worn out single parent, but do you know any Children of The Great Depression? They sort and save everything. So not having time/money isn’t a reasonable excuse for not figuring out a recycling process. Maybe teaching those “multiple children” how to sort recyclables would be of use?

People who would dump trash in business’s dumpsters and on other people’s property will do that no matter if it’s PAYT or the current arrangement. It’s happening now.

I think I have a generally higher expectation of adult humans than you do. I think most people can grasp the recycling sortage process and I think most people would follow the rules for PAYT.

As for the whole nation's issues with packaging/throwing away/dumping, I'll leave that to the geniuses in DC. I'd be happy to have the streets of Cobleskill clean.

Maybe the Stockholm thing is the answer...or maybe we could just send everything out with the next Challenger flight.

Sean Thomaston said...

"I think I have a generally higher expectation of adult humans than you do"

This made me laugh because I'm not talking about other "adult humans" here, I'm speaking from own personal experience.

Unless you are really gung-ho about the idea of incentivizing recycling and compelling people to reduce their waste, pay-as-you-throw will unnecessarily confuse and frustrate people. I'll admit that I only found the process confusing at first, however, it still remains frustrating.

First, in order to throw away any trash, you have to buy a sticker or specifically issued bags or cans (in Ithaca we use stickers which can be purchased from a number of vendors around town). Each sticker is to be used on a bag weighing no more than 20 pounds. Here's where it gets frustrating. Nobody wants to waste a sticker on a bag which can legally hold more garbage. Yet, you don't want to exceed the 20 pounds either. So what do you do, get a scale and weigh the bag of garbage? I have to ask myself when doing this (and you mostly likely would as well): is this the mostly valuable use of my time?

Still, the idea of wasting a sticker frustrates you because at least if your not concerned about the cost, you still have to go out and get more.

I recycle pretty much everything that can be recycled, even though I am not a member of the "depression generation". By the way, I think your assertion is a common generalization and perhaps a simplification. As for parents putting their children "to use", that's a fine idea, but I also don't think a single-parent should be punished financially when and if their children fail to perform their chores.

You certainly are right that there are only so many dollars for trash pick-up. However, I don't think that pay-as-you-throw is proposed as a means of reducing costs. It may reduce costs by way of reducing total waste, but this is uncertain.

I think if you look at statistics, you'll find that right now, most people do in fact recycle without any individual financial incentive. I'm not sure how much we can expect to increase recycling. But again, if that's your big issue, and your community supports maximizing recycling as much as possible, PAYT may be the way to go.

But I don't see it as a way to reduce costs. Thousands of communities provide for the removal of municipal solid waste the traditional way that we are all used to without breaking the bank. So it's not like we're at some crisis point here.

The problem in Cobleskill, has to do with a bad law and a pain-in-the-ass contractor. In my opinion, Cobleskill should just rewrite the law to say that all (residential and commercial) garbage will be collected regardless of what color the bag is and find a new hauler. If the contract is more expensive, so be it, it's worth it. People in Cobleskill are illegally dumping their garbage only because, they don't understand the complicated procedures for waste disposal ushered in by this new contract. PAYT would complicate matters tenfold.

I would argue that it would be easier and probably cheaper to simply collect all trash than getting a PAYT system off the ground, assuming that the village government and its waste hauler is able to coordinate and make the public aware of such a system in the first place.

Anonymous said...

“…incentivizing recycling and compelling people to reduce their waste, pay-as-you-throw will unnecessarily confuse and frustrate people.”
Incentivizing? Naaah.
Compelling? Sure. Just like compelling people to obey any other law.

“So what do you do, get a scale and weigh the bag of garbage?”
I would. Until I got to know the feel of twenty pounds, which might take a couple of weeks.

“However, I don't think that pay-as-you-throw is proposed as a means of reducing costs.”
I wasn't proposing it as a means of reducing costs. I was proposing it as a means of taking it off the Village Board's agenda and giving that responsibility back to the people who own the garbage.

“People in Cobleskill are illegally dumping their garbage only because, they don't understand the complicated procedures for waste disposal ushered in by this new contract.”
Some people in Cobleskill are illegally dumping their garbage because they are lowlifes who don't feel any responsibility toward their neighbors.

I also don't think a single-parent should be punished financially when and if their children fail to perform their chores.
I don't either. I think that the parent should check their children's performance of their chores and correct them, thereby avoiding any financial penalty. Win/win. The children learn something, the recyclables get sorted, the parent pays his or her reasonable share for the cost of getting rid of the crap.

“The problem in Cobleskill, has to do with a bad law and a pain-in-the-ass contractor.”
I'll concede that. It also has to do with a day-late, dollar-short attitude toward public notification. Or, possibly, it has to do with the public's general indifference to what's going on in their Village government. People are supposed to be interested and involved in their own government, preferably prior to their own oxen being gored.