The War on Efficient Trash Collection

Normally, I wouldn’t get into a shouting match between John Cole and his poster ED Kain. John started it when he objected to a revolt against a city council decision to contract with just one trash collector.

Our entire nation has collectively lost its shit:

A Valley community’s decision to change the way trash is picked up provided further proof of how deeply the nation’s anti-government, “tea party”-fueled sentiment is running.A decision by the Fountain Hills Town Council to hire a single trash hauler and begin a curbside recycling program has been met with angry protests from residents who accuse town leaders of overstepping their bounds and taking a leap toward socialism.

Some even likened it to “Obamacare” for garbage, calling it “trashcare.”


This is how the American empire will end. With us rioting in the streets over the right to choose a trash collecter, while the top 5% laugh all the way to the bank.

Followed by Kain hailing choice.

Naturally, I disagree entirely with John’s argument on trash collection. It may be a small issue – so long as your trash is collected, it doesn’t really matter that much who picks it up – but the Tea Partiers are right this time: having choice is a good thing, even for trash collection. If the government came in and said “You can only buy Dell computers from now on” people would be unhappy. We want to be able to choose what kind of computer we buy – and not just because maybe we prefer Apple, but because we know that competition keeps innovation up and prices down.Now, in trash collection you probably won’t see too much innovation, but competition will keep prices down and quality of service high. If you don’t like the people picking up your trash, or the containers they provide, or the driver is rude, or whatever – you can switch.

Once the government has granted a monopoly, however, you’re stuck. It doesn’t matter what level of service you receive, whether prices go up – you have no choice. Many of us already have no choice when it comes to trash collection, so this is sort of a foreign concept. And that’s also why this isn’t really that big of a deal. Trash is basically a public utility in many places, and it works pretty well that way.

But I’m going to wade into this trash debate because it’s something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately. As you probably know, I recently moved from an idyllic left wing small city to an idyllic right wing small city. Both are great places to raise a family, both have charming downtowns, and both support diverse local businesses. One big difference, I’ve come to learn, is that the left wing city provides high quality public services–including single stream curbside recycling, best-in-state public schools, and well-developed social services, whereas the right wing city has privatized those same functions, with “choice” in trash collection, a significant reliance on religious schools (this is one of the hotbeds of voucher activism), and church groups providing many of the social services.

Now, as it happens, I still live in a complex with dumpsters; I’ve got no choice in trash collection because my landlord chose a collector for me. Which means I’ve got to pay a yearly fee with the county for the privilege of driving my recycling to a dumpster a few miles away. Which also means I can’t speak to this wondrous choice that Kain says we might have in trash collection firsthand.

But I will say this. First, it is a significant pain in the ass, on trash day, to have 4 different sets of trash collectors holding up traffic four different times on the same damn roads, because four different companies are picking up trash in the same area. This is not a dense area, which means you’ve got miles and miles and miles of duplicated truck routes, all in the name of this glorious “choice.” Each of those duplicative four truck routes cost money (and of course none of them have the automated pick up that might be affordable if a city awarded a monopoly for the pickup), which I presume makes the cost to consumer much higher. Of course, the way to avoid all this duplication in an idyllic right wing small city, is to push everyone into developments with CCRs, so the development can band together and offer a monopoly to one trash collector, thereby avoiding the four sets of trash trucks, but not the potential for corruption. Choice is not all it’s made up to be, particularly for services with a huge upside on efficiency.

As for me, I have honestly studied which townships offer trash collection–and particularly whether they offer curbside recycling. Because I’ve discovered out here that the real choice you’ve got–certainly the choice to have some kind of efficiency in trash collecting–comes when you select your house, because once you’ve picked, you’re locked into inefficiency.

(And don’t even get me started on sidewalks.)

  1. behindthefall says:

    I have just had to pick a trash company, and the lesson I’ve learned is that the local market has been nearly monopolized — most people do NOT shop around. And the service the big firm provides is demonstrably worse than the service of at one of the little ones. Coming from a state where the town picked up the trash, I find this system bizarre. I took a walk one day and was passed by THREE trash trucks picking up stuff from various houses along the SAME street. This arrangement is guaranteed to be inefficient, just as having profit-making layers between the payer, doc, and patient is guaranteed to be, as well.

    • klynn says:

      It will take one major accident which will be due to too many large trucks in a non-commercial setting, residential side street, to end this costly experiment.

      We had very good public sanitation department and it was not costing that much more than the private sector. It was cleaner, more reliable and you became familiar with who was in your neighborhood working. This helped to increase neighborhood safety.

      It was a sad day when the city scrapped the public system for a privatized one.

  2. bmaz says:

    Normally, I wouldn’t get into a shouting match between John Cole and his poster ED Kain.

    Jeebus, when you start off a post with a sentence like that……

  3. pseudonymousinnc says:

    We have the choice of the county’s sole private provider (no competing collectors) or to take the trash to the county transfer station. Of course, you get the classic city/county divide where lots of county residents burn their trash, which in some parts of the US creates the kinds of fire risks we saw in Tennessee recently.

    The basic response to ED Kain on this is to look at the sources of innovation, and it’s almost always from municipal efforts to broaden the scope of recyclable collections, not from a private sector that would be happy to dump the recycling bags in with the regular trash — and, on occasion, does so — for the sake of “efficiency”.

    As I said back during the discussion of the Tennessee fire-provision debacle, it’s a waste of breath to have to provide ongoing reminders and justifications of why those 19th-century municipal efforts to provide utility service were a Good Thing.

    • emptywheel says:

      Not to mention that you need bigger bulk of recycling goods to make it profitable to even recycle them. I just got my membership card for the county recycling center. I’m member #1523. That’s not enough people to make it profitable, even w/a yearly fee.

      Meanwhile, back in idyllic left wing city, they’re providing incentives for people who recycle more. That’s not entirely smart (in that it encourages people not to reuse). But it’s an innovation and they’ve begun to recycle more types of things.

      • prostratedragon says:

        Yes, and they require less separating now. Guess that could count as an increased incentive. Wonder what the problem with type 3 plastic is?

        As to the larger point,

        […] I’ve discovered out here that the real choice you’ve got–certainly the choice to have some kind of efficiency in trash collecting–comes when you select your house, because once you’ve picked, you’re locked into inefficiency.

        Economists strike again —the Tiebout model.

        Tiebout describes municipalities within a region as offering varying baskets of goods (government services) at a variety of prices (tax rates). Given that individuals have differing personal valuations on these services and varying ability to pay the attendant taxes, individuals will move from one local community to another until they find the one which maximizes their personal utility. The model states that through the choice process of individuals, jurisdictions and residents will determine an equilibrium provision of local public goods in accord with the tastes of residents, thereby sorting the population into optimum communities. The model has the benefit of solving two major problems with government provision of public goods: preference revelation and preference aggregation.

        As you might guess, there are those who offer this model as a justification for the private provision of localized public goods. EW’s remark about lock-in is just one of the problems. Then, of course, we’re talking about one good, trash handling, where a household is interested simultaneously in many, …

  4. dakine01 says:

    I’ve lived all over the country in both north and south and east and west. The most comprehensive recycling programs I’ve seen were in Rome, NY and San Antonio, TX.

    In Rome they broke it up into every two week segments. Week 1 would recycle paper products including newspapers, glossy magazines, and cardboard products up to and including paper towel and toilet paper rolls. No further sorting required. Week 2 was GAMP week (Glass, Aluminum, Metal, Plastic) and the plastics were up to #5 (the number in the triangle on the bottom). The only request was that the items that had contained food be washed out.

    San Antonio provided automated pick-up and the barrels Curb side and had everything that Rome had recycled plus plastics #6 (styrofoam, meat trays and such)

    In other words, they made it excessively easy in both locales.

    • Nathan Aschbacher says:

      I live in Multnomah County Oregon, in downtown Portland. I also have office space up in North Portland on Mississippi Ave.

      In both locations, there are giant bins for recycling. One for glass, one for everything else (all paper, cardboard, metal cans, aluminum, and all even-numbered plastics). They come once a week to pick it all up.

      It’s been this way almost since I was a little kid some 20+ years ago. The only difference back then was that you had to separate your plastics, metals, and papers. Now the only thing you have to keep separated is the glass.

      When I travel around the country I’m very typically aghast at how primitive, or often non-existent, the recycling programs are in major metropolitan areas. It’s really quite pathetic.

    • emptywheel says:

      It’s actually a mixed bag here.

      Erik Prince’s daddy wanted to have heated sidewalks so badly he paid a chunk of money towards the ones in the very lovely downtown.

      But outside of downtown and one other neighborhood, there are none, just bikepaths along one side of the 50 MPH roads with not street lights on them.

      So if we want to walk the dog without dying, we’re going to have to find something in those two neighborhoods, which isn’t east.

      It’s tough out here in flyover country.

  5. jayackroyd says:

    My siblings live in places (ME and PA) where the municipality charges by the bag. That is, you have to buy the bags from the town, and they won’t pick up anything else. This works remarkably in encouraging their actually taking their own recyclables in and also makes a compost heap (or at least pitching the garbage to the raccoons) a great deal more appealing. And, of course, the landfill fills up much more slowly….

    • emptywheel says:

      Oh, I wouldn’t mind that at all (except for the problem of raccoons getting into the bags overnight). We have always marveled at how much trash our neighbors throw out. And that’s even without our compost heap working perfectly as the engineer husband swears he’ll make sure we do soon.

  6. CFnative says:

    I’ve lived in communities where municipal trash pick-up was offered and in communities where it wasn’t. Believe me, municipal pick-up is better.

    In Worcester, MA, a city of about 160,000, municipal trash pick-up offers curbside recycling. Because tipping fees at landfills are rising, the city instituted a trash fee.

    This is how it worked — local retailers offered the trash bags at no mark-up, as a cost of doing business in the city. No bright-yellow city bags, no trash pick-up. It worked just fine.

    Lawn and leaf collections were held twice a year, by the city. You could also drive that stuff to collection points yourself, where you could also get free compost that came from lawn waste. That compost also was used in city parks.

    Now, I live elsewhere and pay nearly $400/yr to a private hauler. Service isn’t nearly so good and I no longer get free compost. Tell me how it’s cheaper to have this service provided by private haulers, who have a profit incentive, than by a municipality?

    Tea bagger stupidity, which is largely unchallenged by mainstream news outlets, is ruining this country. Does unbiased coverage mean that stupid stuff goes unchallenged?

    • moistenedbink says:

      Exactly! Municipalities providing services are not doing so at a profit. They are charging enough to cover expenses. Once we turn over these services to private companies there are no limits on what they charge because they want to make a profit. (health care..cough…cough) If we end up selling our highways and bridges to private firms who promise to repair and upgrade them then we will be at their mercy for whatever toll they wish to charge to travel on them. If we end up letting private entities take over our schools then they can set tuition as they see fit. What is it about the right wingers and tea baggers that they cannot see that they either pay taxes to provide services or they pay through the nose to private companies. In an ideal world it would be a wash, but somehow I think we’d be paying more money out than we ever would in taxes.

  7. edur says:

    FAR From Socialism (unless it’s National); but far along the route to halfascism, in any case! Here in central Floriduh, Volk County’s Imperial pretenses can’t even make the trash collection run on time!! ~ Obameh PICKUP!!!

  8. workingclass says:

    City employees pick up the trash in my town. They do an excellent job. I hadn’t realized that I live in a communist town.

  9. Badwater says:

    First, it is a significant pain in the ass, on trash day, to have 4 different sets of trash collectors holding up traffic four different times on the same damn roads, because four different companies are picking up trash in the same area

    Long ago, we had multiple companies and multiple trash days. There was some slight competition, but not enough to make the weekly chaos worthwhile. I have yet to meet a single person in the Republican area who lived through the era of choice and wants to bring it back.

    • bobschacht says:

      Here in Flagstaff, we have two trash pickups per week: once for Recyclables (everything except glass), and once for trash. I think both are municipal. But there’s no glass pickup, unless you want to pay a private contractor extra. Our church, however, serves as a collection point for glass: a parishioner has taken on, as his/her ministry, glass recycling.

      Bob in AZ

  10. cathy says:

    We have you all beat on the recycling front. Here in the Portland metro area, we can put paper, metal, practically all plastic together in one large container. Compost in another container. They take glass in a separate container and all of these are taken at the curb. You can recycle plastic grocery bags at the grocery store, and 5 cent bottle and can returns on all beer, soda and water bottles. There is no excuse for the rest of the country to not be doing this also.

  11. masaccio says:

    I watched out my daughter’s window in Chicago as three different colored trucks rolled down the alley picking up trash. It isn’t just a traffic issue, think of the wasted fuel as the trucks all run the same routes.

    Nashville has recycling pick-up once a month, no separation except glass and Class 6 plastics. I recycle bottles at a pickup point not far away and convenient. The Kroger store recycles those awful plastic bags and filmy plastics like the bag the paper comes in.

    The city gave us each a rolling bin for garbage and one for recycling, and the truck is one of those automatic lifts.

    The idea that we should care about choice in garbage pick-up is ludicrous. There are not that many companies in the pick-up business, so if you go with 1-year renewable contracts with good supervision, you get good results.

  12. CalGeorge says:

    Don’t most towns award trash pick-up contracts and allow private companies to bid on them? That’s not even close to being socialism. If people are unhappy, the next contract can go to a different company.

    Socialism would be public ownership of the trash pick-up company, which might be an excellent alternative to the current system in that people might have more say in how their state-owned company operates.

  13. Surtt says:

    These Teabaggers can opt out of “trashcare” and haul their own garbage to the dump.
    What happened to their fierce self reliance?
    Oh yeah, that would be inconvenient.

  14. dick c says:

    I live in a semi-rural area just north of Detroit and having multiple companies handling trash pickup has bothered me since I moved out here ten years ago. Why would anyone care about the “choice” of who picks up their trash? Another thing that bugs me about it is that I put out one 2/3rds full plastic shopping bag of trash a week. I can’t imagine it’s 5 lbs. The truck barely pulls to a stop. Recycling pickup twice a month, but I often see that just go into the trash truck. For that I pay $7 per week. I drive by a couple landfills regularly. I keep thinking I should see if I can drop it off myself.

  15. Teddy Partridge says:

    Only someone who hasn’t studied trash collection would say

    Now, in trash collection you probably won’t see too much innovation

    I really can’t pay attention to someone who writes this.

  16. tatere says:

    The most telling comment was in the followup:

    But this is government we’re talking about, and government can’t always be efficient…

    Funny how inefficiency is fine when it supports conservative ideological points, but inefficiency in, say, aid to the poor is “waste, fraud and abuse”.

    • perris says:

      government is in just about every case far more efficient then private industry, private industry has a profit model as they should, government service has a service model as they should

      even when you take into account corruption, government is almost always more efficient then private industry

      then when you take into account all the added jobs at living wage government provides, the efficiency dwarfs private enterprise

      • onitgoes says:

        Exactly. Something that most conservatives these days simply don’t want to “get.” Somehow citizens making a living wage via a gov’t job is currently unfashionable and viewed as some kind of highway robbery, but when a so-called business person off-shores tens of thousands of US jobs to third world countries, engages in insider trading & consequently becomes a billionaire, conservatives clap & cheer.

    • dustbunny44 says:

      It was Meg Whitman running, initially, on her experience in business and it’s inescapable efficiency. Government just throws money at a problem, while business supposedly addresses it.
      So she throws $150 Million at the problem of getting elected governor, and loses spectacularly. That is the reality of business. That, and occasionally being in the right place at the right time, like finding yourself CEO of Ebay with <50 employees.

      • moistenedbink says:

        Whitman also wouldn’t hire a United States Citizen and pay a living wage to be her maid. She’s a freaking billionaire and she couldn’t pay someone $35,000 a year for maid service?

  17. perris says:

    you know what it is marcy?

    the right wingers don’t want to see uneducated people earning a living wage, they would see one man taking all that same money in profit then a 100 people taking that same money home in fair pay check

    that’s what the right wing has done, they’ve gotten people mad when an uneducated person earns a living wage

  18. patrickhenrypress says:

    Here in the shadow of Apple, you get 3 toters – a large green yard waste one, a large blue recycling one and a tiny brown “regular garbage” one. The recycling isn’t separated. The city has its own composting, providing free bags of compost to city residents, made from the yard waste they pick up. This month we get pitchers to hold wet food – veggies, fruit and meats – to add to the yard waste container to speed up the decomposition of the compost.

    Prediction: that one won’t be very popular.

    This results in 3 different trucks all arriving on the same day: one for the yard waste, one for the recycling and one for the “regular” garbage. They also provide 2 annual free curbside pickups – one for yard waste and one for anything else. And the college nearby has weekend toxic recycling. You can also schedule additional pickups at the curb, if needed (not free).

    I’ve lived in several cities, including Los Angeles where recycling cans are not required nor provided for apartment complexes. L.A. has run out of space for its trash. I really don’t mind 3 trucks for the kind of service this city provides, and the enlightened approach they have here.

    And yes, There is only one option. Imagine if there were 10 competing companies. How many trucks, on how many days, might we endure then?

    Some things are actually best left to the city’s elected officials (who damn well ought to require open bids). At least, the politicians can be un-elected at frequent opportunities. And, from a place that had picketing protesters over an off-leash dog park, how about them thar city council meetings where you can rant to your heart’s content about your crappy (pun intended) trash service!

    Personally, I really don’t want my neighbor contracting with “Thermotrash! – We nuke it dead, right on your property! (Not responsible for radiation drift. Service not available in some states. Void where prohibited.)”

    • person1597 says:

      Glad you brought up my old home town — I helped support the effort to bring yard waste composting to the community back in the 90’s.

      There is a great DeCinzo cartoon about the effort but I couldn’t find it online — the jist was that there was a vote to create a utility tax to fund a new baseball stadium but Cupertino was trying to secure a critical greenbelt as well as fund a yard waste pick up program. The cartoon showed the cities who supported the stadium as glorious and full of cheer. By contrast, Cupertino’s claim to glory was a garbage can full of smelly waste. Everyone laughed at the dichotomy.

      The program was successful so now folks can get free bags of “black gold” compost. The recycling program(s) are an extension of that early effort to reduce waste flow.

      • PJEvans says:

        Two trash-can-sized blue bins for the 60-unit complex I live in. Like that’s enough: we have two four-yard dumpsters for trash (and I collected some perfectly good packing boxes off the top of the trash a few months back).

    • emptywheel says:

      Yeah, important post not worth an entire followup to Kain’s followup.

      These people were elected. Aren’t they supposed to do their job, to find best solutions for town? Or are TeaBaggers against elections now, too?

  19. dustbunny44 says:

    My experience is that competition for services ends up that those who actually perform the service often get near minimum wage and no benefits; those who own the service provider live fabulously well, and those paying the bills pay 2x and up, with hefty increases every year. And all that happens behind closed doors, no visibility, no accountability.
    Government will pay, where possible, a more living wage, they will be more accountable and open, and any cost savings goes back to the general fund, not to the owner’s homes in the bahamas, Spain, thailand, Aspen, and Manahattan, and the jets to move between them.

    • onitgoes says:

      Seems pretty basic, doesn’t it? And it wasn’t all that long ago that most citizens “got” this concept. Very sad that some portion of our population has been carefully taught to view all private enterprise through foolish rose covered glasses believing always that the private sector will “do better” than the public sector. It’s not always the case.

  20. AitchD says:

    One: I also moved from a left Rust Belt urban neighborhood very much like ew describes regarding its services and schools; now I live in a right county in the New South, which she also described when she described her new hometown.

    Two: I suppose each town’s cable TV is like trash and never with choice.

    Three: Dumpster is a registered trade name deserving a capital ‘D’.

  21. onitgoes says:

    Most of this Teabagging stuff just plays into the hands of various businesses, large & small, which, I guess, Teabaggers in theory are just fine with. Well, ok, it’s “nice” to have a “choice” and all, but privatization doesn’t necessarily mean “better service,” nor does it mean that it’s cheaper or more efficient or more effective.

    Generally with one municipal/govt agency doing the trash pick up, certain economies of scale apply, conflicts of route pickups are avoided, and there are economies in terms of gas guzzling & air pollution.

    Teabaggerz never appear to look at the bigger picture, preferring instead to stay in an idealized & largely fictional AynRandian mythlogical universe ginned up & penned up for them by rightwing thinktanks and promolgated via the corporate-owned rightwing media.

    Notice that none of these same people bitched and whined about this type of thing not that long ago. Nowadays all we hear about is the scourge of evil “socialism.”

    Yes, this country is doomed to mediocrity, at best (we can only hope), and much worse by the steady erosion of common sense and a sane societal managment. sheesh.

    • patrickhenrypress says:

      They’ve bought into the lie that if the obscenely wealthy can’t become doubly obscenely wealthy, they’ll all lose their jobs and their way of life forever.

      Don’t kid yourself. They perceive correctly. The bankers who adore the new status quo will crush anyone who stands in their way. Including the United States. Enjoying the recession? Not so much? Gut all regulations on business and get your butts into Iran. That’s what they are demanding, and that’s what the fuss is all about.

      They’d also like it if we’d please get out of the damn way and let Pakistan and India destroy each other. I’m sure they’re still p.o.’d America and the Soviet Union never had that nuclear conflagration. And, if we don’t act quickly enough to get back to warring aggressively, well a civil war will do nicely. Just so long as both sides are poor enough to need loans for the machinery of death. Hell, Haliburton won’t make spit if they can’t do reconstruction!!!

      Fear is the tool of the right. Reason is their enemy. Money is their drug (their only reason to live), and they are addicted more than addicts to heroin. The masses are, in their estimation, putty in the hands of a wealthy person*.

      * See eMeg.

      This is war, and people here are still too enamored with their trinkets to care enough to even put up a good fight. He who awakens the sleeping giant had best hope there isn’t a bank left standing when the dust settles. They’ll get their revenge, even if it takes 200 years.

      Frankly, it wouldn’t surprise me a bit if the real reason the Pentagon feels compelled to marshal the by-far greatest military in the world is that they fear the day the bankers unite the rest of the world against us in war. Not in the least. It makes a heckuva lot more sense than, “We need 1/3 of the nation’s GDP to fight millionaire terrorist goat herders in caves.”

  22. mytwocents says:

    I live in a state where the concepts of choice and competition were applied to electricity supply some years ago. We can still buy electricity from the company that previously held the monopoly and was governed by the state Public Utility Commission, but like the Bell Telephone companies of old that offered only one telephone and that phone only in black, this firm supplies only plain black electrons.

    Things are so much better now that we have “choice”. At first, new suppliers offered their electrons in different colors, but the technology took off quickly. Now you can go online and pick the color of your electricity from 256,000,000 shades. If you’re a Raiders fan, you can get black-and-silver electricity. Are you a superpatriot? Then red, white and blue are the electrons for you! Maybe you prefer fewer but larger electrons; yes, that’s an option, too. Of course, if you get some rude electrons, you can always switch suppliers.

    “Electric Choice’s” main deficiency is that it’s semi-communistic; the wire, transformer and pole system installed decades ago by the then-monopoly supplier is still used by other suppliers to deliver electrons to subscribers. New suppliers are apparently not yet allowed to install their own delivery poles and compete on the basis of the design of their infrastructure. So if you want your electricity delivered on a totem pole or a candy-striped pole, you’ll have to wait until the the TP folks open things up to more competition.

  23. solerso says:

    “competition keeps innovation up and prices down.”

    this is one of those tropes that market worshipers reapeat over and over with genuinely religious conviction. I dont belive this is true, competion produces competitors. The outcomes of thier competion sometimes benefit the consumer but not always and usually only in the short-term. This kind of market free for all usually leads to an unregulated monopoly (health care style) with the power to impose whatever price it want: its private money so the customer can pay or live in thier garbage. The other outcome of market jungle-ism is an increasingly chaotic and unpredictable market with (cable TV style) shoddy, spotty, interrupted service and local monopolies. Neither one of thoe outcomes is “good” for consumers.

  24. 4cdave says:

    The free market fundamentalists want to model everything like it is a retail consumer product, which is one of the few places the free market actually can work. In this case they are comparing to “the government forcing you to buy a Dell”. During the health care debate the argument was made that “health care is like buying a suit”. They aren’t, for various reasons.

    In this case, trash needs to be picked up, whether you can afford to do it or not, whether you choose to do it or not. You want to offer recycling whether it is profitable or not. This is exactly the sort of thing that should not be in the private sector at all, much less having a choice of five. The trucks should be government-owned, the employees should be unionized government employees, and the whole thing paid for via taxes on those who can afford it.

  25. szielinski says:

    It’s efficient to have 10 or more trash collectors in a small city/town. Eventually, a rational person would expect, the trash collectors would produce one uber-trash collector, the trash collector that vanquished all comers in the competitive struggle for survival.

    So, trash collecting would return to normal when one trash collector conquers all.

    There is one problem, though. Thanks to market deregulation, the uber-trash collector would not only be a monopoly, it would also have the legal means with which to extract monopoly rents from the hapless citizens who, in some instances, choose to open up trash collecting to multiple collectors and to deregulate the trash collecting market.

    I wonder if the uber-trash collector will have a name like Soprano Sanitation?

  26. Larue says:

    I find the most INTERESTING point in this trashy dime novel novella to be one I read at HuffPo . . has FDL addressed it? I’m behind on my reading:

    Allegedly, The Tea Party group making all the noise, distributing a noxious flyer and leading the charade against commies and lack of choice are not even from said Fountain Town . . . they are part of the National Party. The LOCAL Tea Party Peeps won’t have anything to DO with the out of state people.

    Once again The Brothers Koch rear their ugly faces . . . ???

      • Larue says:

        Was HuffPo main page earlier today . . . . hmm . . . it’s been updated and rewritten some it seems . . . now the HuffPo (Amanda Terkel) read says there are 2 Tea Party groups in town at odds with each other . . . more items as one reads thru it . . . none as explicit as earlier which described ‘outside forces’ as being the drivers on this issue . . . now it appears that from in town sources there’s a MUCH more clear picture of the Who, What , When, etc.

        HuffPo Linky.

        Interesting . . . sorry for the diversion from your diary . . . which is A FINE READ!

  27. JaneaneTheAcerbicGoblin says:

    When my grandparents came through Ellis Island years and years ago, they were escaping the tyranny of the Italian trash system and its remarkable efficiency. When they landed in America, they were proud of the fact that they could choose who picked up their trash.


  28. captjjyossarian says:

    Thanks! Americans need to collectively relearn the purpose and efficiency of public infrastructure.

    Where I live there’s only 1 trash hauler so that’s fine. But there’s plenty of other dumb stuff like… every mother driving thier kid to the local elementary school in thier SUV. My 5 minute trip to the local rail station turns into 20-30 minutes of waiting in traffic because moms won’t put thier kids on the bus.

  29. TheOracle says:

    Why do I get the feeling that something similar to that house burning incident a month ago will happen in regards to trash collection for a fee?

    IOW, that guy whose house was allowed to burn to the ground didn’t pay, so if someone doesn’t pay for trash collection, what will probably happen is trash piling up all over the place, which would be a fire hazard, and a disease hazard, to say nothing of the smell.

    So let’s get rid of ALL government services, plunging America into Third World status. You betcha’.

  30. pdaly says:

    In my town, we have a single company that collects the trash and collects the recycling items.

    I watched several months ago on my local cable channel, the Q&A session for the town committee meeting in which they discussed the costs for trash collection and for recycling collection. Once one townsman realized that the town was charged per lbs of regular trash collected (and charged a flat fee for recycling) he was all for inspecting and fining individual townsfolk for egregiously placing recyclable items in with the trash. Fortunately, one of the elected town officials expressed the opinion that rummaging through each person’s trash wash to labor intesive and favored renewed education about what trash should go in a recycle bin.

    At that time we were on a weekly trash collection but only once every two weeks recycling collection. To my surprise the trash collection company has agreed to and begun weekly trash and recycling collection. Not sure if the town is paying more for this, however.

  31. kuvasz says:

    One should recognize that most of these tea baggers/libertarians shout on about “choice” in their lives because they actually have very little of it in their own life. But, don’t tell them that because they think they are masters of their own destiny, and will set upon you with violence to prove their freedom.

  32. kaleberg says:

    Back in the 1960s, NYC used to collect commercial trash as well as residential, but the plan was to privatize commercial collection. I learned this listening in on a grown up conversation. A friend of my parents wasn’t too keen on the idea. Privatizing trash collection meant it was going to the “family”. “What family?”, I asked. (Hell, I was a kid.) “Organized crime. The Mafia.” I had heard of them.

    He was right on the money. The mob divided up the business, sold “protection”, and heaven help the poor schnook with a truck who just wanted to haul trash. It took decades to get the mob out of commercial trash collection, and few of the magical ponies everyone was promised ever materialized.

    Now, the mob wants back in, but it isn’t the old fashioned street guys with muscle. It’s big business. You’ll see the same fixed and rising rates and the same lack of choice you see in cable companies, cell phones and so on. It’s Economics 101. Trash collection is a natural monopoly. I’ll take these guys seriously when I can choose my military protection and stop paying for extras like the war in Iraq.

  33. PJEvans says:

    The city of Los Angeles picks up trash from residences, and recycling bins at apartments. Otherwise it’s all done by private contractors. So far it works, but that’s because there’s a lot of trash to be picked up. I don’t thin the city could handle all the trash….

    Other places do things differently: where I lived in west Texas, private companies picked up the trash in rural areas, and from some of the businesses, and the city trucks picked up everything in the city (which occasionally involved stuff illegally dumped in a city dumpster: the dead ostrich comes to mind).

  34. marymccurnin says:

    I live in Sacramento where the trash peeps deliver a small can for garbage, a big can for recycle and a big can for yard waste when you move in. We don’t have to sort the recycle and they expect your garbage to be far less in volume than your recycle.

  35. beleck says:

    wow you have recycling? here in New Orleans that ended with Katrina. so much for socialism.
    and please don’t mention Dell!

  36. chrisc says:

    I ‘ve been following trash issues in San Diego county for some time.

    The city of San Diego is kind of unique because residents who live in single family homes get free trash pick up. Many, many years ago, a private company was hired to pick up trash but they made some extra money by selling it to pig farmers. Some people thought that was “profiteering”. In 1919, voters passed a measure called “The People’s Ordinance” which granted them free trash pickup by the city. A public vote is required to change that ordinance. No easy feat to get the voters to vote themselves a monthly trash pickup fee!

    Both the City of San Diego and the County of San Diego owned the landfills until the mid 1990s. The County was going bankrupt and had to sell the landfills and a huge costly state-of-the-art recycling center that was never profitable.

    There was a reason it wasn’t profitable. In the mid 1990s, the main trash companies managed to get exclusive contracts agreed to be the other cities in San Diego county. One company managed to get most of the north county cities. The contracts required sorted curbside recycleables. This company, was fined by the FPPC for lots and lots of illegal campaign contributions. But what is a fine when you win all the contracts!

    The reason the company wanted sorted curbside recycling was because they wanted the county’s recycling center to go bust. They wanted it to fail so the county would agree to privatize it. Their plan worked too well. It failed, but the county was going bankrupt and needed to sell the landfill and recycling center.

    The trash company then devised Plan B. They planned to build a trash transfer station owned by the cities in the northern part of the county but operated by them. Of course it was going to be in a dense, minority area and hundreds of trucks would traverse their roads, by their homes and schools during the day and night to fill up bigger trucks and haul trash to Orange County. Orange County had gone bankrupt and expanded their landfills and gave cheaper tipping fees to out-of-county haulers in the hopes of making some revenue.

    It was nuts to me to haul trash to Orange County. I investigated and found out that the JPA(joint powers authority) which was composed of the cities that had exclusive contracts with a particular hauler had hired a consultant who was at the same time a paid employee of the private hauler. Huge conflict of interest. For this reason and more, that particular trash transfer station never got approval.

    The minute the county sold the state of the art recycling center, dismantled it and shipped it off to some foreign country, the local hauler, the one with the exclusive contracts for sorted curbside recycleables, switched to single stream recycleables. The company had lost their bid for a trash transfer station, but they managed to get another one they already owned expanded. It used to be said, “Whoever owns the landfills, owns the trash.” Now, it is whoever owns the transfer stations owns the trash. They set the rates. The landfills are privatized and they give the big transfer trucks cheaper rates. Little haulers are forced to take their trash to the transfer stations.

    One of the advantages to the cities of having an exclusive contract was that they made free pickup for the cities a part of the contract. In my city, that meant about $1 million dollars in what was once general fund expense was dumped on to the ratepayers. Not a single city in San Diego county has ever rebid the trash contracts. They always extend the original agreements.

    We have more trucks on the streets picking up trash. Even now, with single stream mingled recycleables in one can, 3 different trucks come to pick up- one for the trash, one for the recycleables and one for the green waste.
    Our landfills are supposedly filling up too fast and state laws require that cities reduce trash volume or face fines. And yet, the green waste is actually dumped in a layer on top of the trash at the landfill. It doesn’t reduce volume at all.

    The trash haulers get to keep all the money they get from the recycleables (and never have to reveal how much it is that they have collected). The trash companies are the force behind increases in recycling deposit fees. And even though every city made a law against it, people still scavenge through the blue bins to get bottles and cans in residential areas and public parks.

    What I have learned over the years is that there is nothing about the way the trash is done that is for efficiency. It is only about profit or cutting out a competitor. Or to get general fund expenses on the backs of ratepayers. The decision makers like it that way- it keeps the batched campaign contributions coming in.