Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Great idea. Piss poor execution.

Maybe I am being too harsh, but it really irks me when I see good ideas wasted. This one has to do with the city's plan to offer curbside green waste pickup. Green matter will go in a separate container & be picked up on the same schedule as the trash. This has been offered only to people on the Wednesday schedule and now it will be offered to those on the Thursday one. Great! I love being able to take actions that make good green sense.

In this case, the city wants to collect green matter that can be composted by the city instead of having it go to the landfill. Mr. Field Notes commented on seeing the signs for the city's "sanitary landfill" on our drive home from the Westside, which I have to say, tends to be more eco-aware than the Eastside, that there is nothing sanitary about them. So today when we received a letter today letting us know that we can opt into the program, I immediately thought GREAT! Yes, that makes good environmental sense and if the city is going to make it easier for its residents to adopt eco-friendly behaviors, I am all for it.

HOWEVER -

If you charge people $200 a year to haul away their leaves and what not, who but people who have disposable income are going to sign up? It would cost me far less to buy a bin and take it to the city's composting area than that. That's not what they want people to do though. It would also cost me less to set up a composting area on my own property (we already have).

I am sick and tired of eco-friendly behavior costing more than eco-aversive ones. If you want to change behavior, you've got to make the desired behavior cost less than the undesired one.

Sixteen bucks a month is too much. I don't have 60 gallons a month of green waste even in green waste heavy months, like November when most of the trees shed their leaves.

Here's my solution -
Charge people a fee for waste pickup based on the weight of their waste.

That way the cost of throwing away something is relevant. It would give people incentive to use less, use what they have longer, and contribute less to the landfill. If you hit people's pocketbooks, they will change their behavior. People drive less when the price of gas goes up. If gas cost what it ought to, people would choose other methods of transportation. Of course, with my weigh the trash solution, you would have to figure out how to police people who would cheat the system by throwing their waste into someone else's bin.

5 comments:

SquirrelGurl said...

I agree with you that charging $200 a year is a lot for green waste pickup. However, charging on a per weight basis isn't feasible either as you would have to come up with a way to weigh the waste as it is picked up, record weights for each site and then come up with a way to bill the corresponding address. The cost of setting up such a collection/billing process and retrofitting trucks with scales (they'll want digital ones) would be quite large and I'm sure the community would not like to foot the bill for that...

Why is it that being responsible always seems to be more costly?

Field Notes said...

Yes, I totally agree that adopting a new system would cost a lot up front and people wouldn't go for it either. However, if that is the only option, then they/me would have to figure out how to live with it.

I have heard that other communities, I don't know whether they are in the U.S. weigh trash and charge accordingly.

If trucks and billing already exist, then communities could phase in the new system as old trucks are retired. Given that garbage trucks run constantly, it would be best if the new trucks ran on fuel cells or some other sustainable and responsible energy source.

I'd find a way to make the new system cost each individual household less than the old system. If that means changing the tax structure on local, state, and national levels, then that's what I'd do ;-)

Christian Student Scientist said...

I couldn't agree with you more. And it is ridiculous that 'green' behavior costs us more than wasteful one. I don't have any good ideas on how to make it work though. I can see why they have to charge extra for 'green' trash.

Psychgrad said...

Great post. I wish I had the opportunity to have composting/green matter picked up on a weekly basis. I'm sure that would cut my waste in half. I know my city is starting to implement this on an experimental basis. But, since I'm only renting, this service isn't available to me. I've looked into different composting options. Being that I'm in a high traffic area, I would not be able to leave a bin outside my apartment. I also don't have anywhere to store a bin in the apartment.

Personally, I believe that this service should be free. Particularly as our governments are trying to lessen their environmental impacts.

B said...

My old home town made residents buy standards size garbage cans, in three sizes. Each size has a separate charge so people who opt for more "waste" pay more w/the bigger size container. Of course my family had 7 people so we had the larger one for a while but my mom always recycled glass, plastic, tin, aluminum and paper, sorting at home and taking them to the recycling center herself.