The Trash Police, They Live Inside Of My Bin

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Government intrusion breeds more government intrusion, even in the silliest circumstances. Case in point—a new British proposal to charge people by weight for how much garbage they throw out is being supplemented by microchips that will monitor the trash bins.

Once weighed, a bill for the waste would be sent to the owner.

Local authorities do not yet have the power to use the chips to charge people but have started introducing them in the expectation that they will be used.

The Mail on Sunday reported that an estimated 25,000 chips had been removed by disgruntled residents in Bournemouth.

The chips are intended to make it easier to charge the right homeowner for his refuse. So how to prevent neighbors from dumping their trash, clandestinely, in another bin? There's probably an upgrade in the works to take care of that.

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  1. ‘Cause they’re waiting for me.
    They’re looking for me.
    Ev’ry single night they’re driving me insane.
    Those men inside my brain.

  2. I’m not sure what to make of the microchips, but charging people based on how much garbage they throw out is a good idea. If I don’t have as much refuse, why should I pay as much as my neighbor who generates tons of trash?

  3. Yeah, the monitoring for this is going to be a headache. Expect lots of 3 AM littering, especially of things like furniture.

  4. councils up and down the UK are faced with tough decisions about what to do with the UK’s waste

    Just export it. Like they did with Oasis.

  5. Rubbish!

  6. Pop quiz:

    It costs you money to throw trash in your trash can.

    It doesn’t cost you money to throw trash in empty lots, streets, alleys, parks, lakes, schoolyards, parking lots, or other people’s yards.

    OK, kids, what happens next?

  7. I know it sounds stupid but the concept has been around for a long time. In the Golden Fleece state, if you take your crap to the county dump (oh, sorry, I mean the county landfill), you are charged according to how much it weighs. Ditto for the commercial outfits, every truck is weighed at the gate.

  8. Despite constantly railing against regulations in favor of markets, Today’s Self-identified Libertarian scoffs at using market incentives to solve an environmental problem. Who could possibly have guessed?

  9. I dunno Windy, you get arrested for littering?

    Actually, I’ve been paying for trash pick up my entire adult life. That’s how prop 13 worked out in Californicate. Many of the services that the government used to provide, like trash pick up, are now privatized and paid seperately. You still get to pay the property tax bill and the rate is decent but now you pay for your own trash pick up. In the newer developments, everything is extra from streetlights to curbs to sewer lines.

  10. Why does weight matter? Isn’t volume the issue with trash? A 50-gallon trash can needs no microchip to verify it’s capacity.

  11. We do that every week here in Fort Worth except we pay by volume and no computer chips are involved. When you establish your city account you choose which size trash bin you will fill each week and pay on that basis.

    Isn’t volume more important than weight anyway? Its not a perfect system because the scale doesn’t allow for very small volumes, but there would seem to be a minimum charge required just to have someone drive by your house even if you had half a pound of trash.

    Won’t this possibly work in reverse? I think it is Freakonomics that tells the story about a daycare that institutes a late charge for people picking up kids late, and the frequency of late pick ups increases becauses it changes the moral responsibility to a monetary responsibility that can be easily discharged. I don’t know how it would work across the population in general, but personally I think I would be much more likely to conserve in order to save England than to save money.

    Luckily in the US we don’t have this problem, we haven’t even started filling in the Grand Canyon.

  12. Holy shit…the government is charging for refuse disposal based on quantity, rather than a flat fee. And not only that, but they actually want to monitor and enforce it!? VIVA REVOLUCION!!! Time to take to the streets!!! Please.

    Habeas Corpus is all but dead. I can’t even talk politics within 6 months of an election without violation some bullshit Campaign Finance law. Doctors are being arrested and locked up for life for prescribing pain pills to patients in horrible pain. The government is stealing homes from the poor and handing them over to wealthy developers. And…THIS is what you’re crying about?

    Of all the rabid injustices that are committed every day by The Omnipotent State, I think that charging for garbage by weight instead of by flat fee ranks way, way, WAY fucking low on my list. And then David Weigel whines that it is “government intrusion”? I just…I just don’t see the problem here. Sure, like most other government programs, this one will fall prey to the pitfalls of beaurocracy, and will be costly and probably fail, but in terms of “intruding” on my life, well, wait till the SWAT team breaks into the wrong house on a pot bust, and that house is your house, and they shoot your dog dead because it barked at them, and you don’t even get an apology froom them…then talk to me about “government intrusion”, ok?

  13. gaijin is right. Here in my town, we pay about $100 for a yearly trash sticker (or, alternately, you can buy individual one-time-use stickers). You put the sticker on the approproately-sized trash can, and they’ll pick up whatever you can fit in said trash can. If you go over that can’s capacity, then you need to go downtown and buy some one-time-use stickers, or you just wait until next Monday. This system is extremely logical, and encourages recycling and waste reduction.

    Why the need for a weight-based system?

  14. Why the need for a weight-based system?

    As far as collection is concerned it costs the same to collect a half full bin as a full one. On that basis the system that Evan! speaks of is about as good as any.

    I suppose that limited landfill capacity might call for discouraging excessive trash and encouraging recycling but in most parts of the US landfill capacity is not a problem.

  15. Yeah, not sure what the fuss is about. I’ve paid for curb-side trash pickup either through a yearly fee to the private firm that handles it in our town, to the town directly for a landfill permit, or through high property taxes for ‘free trash removal’ in the last place I lived.

  16. I’m thinking of leaving the UK after this shocking news. Identity cards I can deal with – but someone knowing how much my ‘trash’ weighs… It’s the last straw.

  17. I agree that DW is on the wrong track. The alternative to a weight- or volume-based fee system is a flat fee that everyone pays regardless of how much trash they produce. And what do we call a system where everyone pays the same regardless of how many resources they actually use? Communism, that’s what, dagnabbit!

    I think that volume pricing is market pricing version 1.0: easy to implement, easy to understand, easy to enforce. We have private trash collection in my city and you rent a container of a particular size and are charged for any extra bags you leave out. But the trash hauler is not charged for dumping by volume, but by weight. It would natural for him to charge his customer the same way.

    Incidentally, it is possible to estimate the number of people that live in a given house by driving down the street on trash day and looking at the size of the container. People drive by my house and see the smallest size and snicker to each other: “pathetic single man.” I know they do. I see them from behind my curtains, I do.

  18. Despite constantly railing against regulations in favor of markets, Today’s Self-identified Libertarian scoffs at using market incentives to solve an environmental problem. Who could possibly have guessed?

    I can’t speak for others, but I wasn’t scoffing at the idea of market incentives. I was scoffing at the poor implementation.

    Pollution (including trash) is a classic case of a market failure, and it’s one that’s often difficult to fix. Charging a tax on trash to cover the cost of disposal is a pretty good solution, but that’s not what the councils are doing. They’re not charging for trash produced or disposed of, they’re charging for trash disposed of in trash cans.

    Trash disposed of elsewhere—in streets or parks or other public places—is not charged. And when you give something away for free, people use a lot of it. Yes, there are fines for littering, but I think enforcement will be difficult.

    Charging for disposal on a trash-load-by-trash-load basis works well for industrial waste producers because it’s relatively easy to catch cheaters: Each company produces a lot of waste, you can force them to keep documentation, and there aren’t a lot of companies. Check the paperwork, count the trucks, make sure they go where they’re supposed to.

    On the other hand, if you institute residential per-load charges, there’s really no easy way to stop millions of Brits from saving themselves a little money by dumping trash in public places. They’d need to hire a lot more police.

    The volume charges some of you are talking about—annual bin rental fees—are a little different because once people have committed to the bin, they have no incentive to stop using it. Even so, I’ll bet there are people who use other people’s bins on a regular basis just to avoid having to bump up to a larger one.

  19. “Yes, there are fines for littering, but I think enforcement will be difficult.”

    Get this: I’m a law-abiding citizen, no record, etc. So, for the longest time, since I’d been at my house, the trash truck came at 9:00am or later. Then, one day, I came out at 7am, and they had already picked up the trash on my street! I live on a corner, and I noticed that a neighbor on the adjacent perpendicular street still had a full can, so I thought, hell, I have a valid sticker, I’ll just move mine over to his curb.

    Later that morning, much to my embarassment, a City police officer visited me at my firm. I (and my wife, at her firm) had to explain to this belligerent nitwit what had happened.

    So, if a completely legal “dumping” is met with such hassle, I’d say it wouldn’t be THAT difficult to enforce public littering. I just don’t see how “enforcement would be difficult” is a valid argument against a law. The same could be said for many laws. What if someone said “we can’t make rape illegal, because it’s hard to enforce!” The validity of a policy/law is quite independent of the difficulty of its enforcement.

    “The volume charges some of you are talking about—annual bin rental fees—are a little different because once people have committed to the bin, they have no incentive to stop using it. Even so, I’ll bet there are people who use other people’s bins on a regular basis just to avoid having to bump up to a larger one.”

    Like I said, Windy, at least in our town, if you go over the limits of your trash can, you can purchase individual one-time-use stickers for additional bags. Quite frankly, you don’t see alot of dumping here…because the vast, VAST majority would rather go down to the convenience store or city hall and purchase a one-time sticker for $1.50, than risk being arrested for dumping. I’ve had people dump trash on my lot before, and the police came and went through the trash and found envelopes/bills with the address of the dumpers on them, and found them that way. Plus, you have the deterrent of never knowing if your neighbor is actually watching you from behind those blinds. I’d never think of putting my trash into a neighbor’s bin, first and foremost because I’m not an asshole, but also because you never know who’s watching you.

  20. Poor implementation is right.

    Paying by bin size is a better idea, but there’s an even better system, based on special trash bags.

    The City (or its contractors) will only pick up trash in the special orange trash bags it sells. The price of the bags is based no on the cost to provide them, but the cost to dispose of one full trash bag. The stuff in your recycle bin, on the other hand, gets picked up for free. One surprising benefit is that local storeowners are eager to stock and sell the bags, even at little or no profit, because they get people into the store.

    Microchips in trash cans. You’ve got to be kidding me.

  21. Why doesn’t everyone just do what Toronto does & ship it to Michigan (or is that Ohio)?

    [And people say that Canada doesn’t know how to export finished products.]

  22. What market-based system are you referring to, Mr. Obvious?

    All I see is a monopoly provider forcing a new method of calculating charges on its “customers”.

  23. I just don’t see how “enforcement would be difficult” is a valid argument against a law. The same could be said for many laws. What if someone said “we can’t make rape illegal, because it’s hard to enforce!” The validity of a policy/law is quite independent of the difficulty of its enforcement.

    Evan, can I use this on the next abortion thread?

  24. Hmmmmm, I agree with Joe. Whadda ya know?

    The apartment building I live in has a dumpster for its residents. I get to throw out my trash for “free”. Of course this is built into the rent.

    Remember kiddies, there is no such thing as free rubbish, unless you count what comes out of politicians mouths. Even then you end up paying for it….

  25. The volume charges some of you are talking about—annual bin rental fees—are a little different because once people have committed to the bin,

    There’s an enormous difference between the two that they aren’t seeing. Paying a service fee for trash pick-up is one thing. Paying based on the weight you toss is a completely different animal. Phone books, boxes of magazines, heavy jars or jars of old food – these are things that people paying based on weight are going to avoid putting in the bin. People paying an annual or monthly service fee aren’t going to think twice.

  26. “Paying based on the weight you toss is a completely different animal. Phone books, boxes of magazines, heavy jars or jars of old food…”

    plus, i dont even ask for those phone books. light-weight 411 for-the-win.

  27. The smarter strategy is to tax material throughput at the source of production. This creates an reason for the industry to produce products that are easily recylced, last longer, etc… and encourages them to find ways to get the materials back for use in manufacturing… (e.g., Interface flooring for a company already working under this model). If widely implemented, this could lead to companies paying you for your garbage… rather than cities charging you to get rid of it.

  28. “Can you honestly tell me you forgot? Forgot the magnetism of Robin Zander, or the charisma of Rick Nielsen?

  29. The Mail on Sunday reported that an estimated 25,000 chips had been removed by disgruntled residents in Bournemouth.

    [breaths sigh of relief] At least there’s something that people will revolt over.

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