I Like to Watch You With Your Drawstring Bag

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Chris Martin, Coldplay lead singer founder and frontman of the CleanScapes waste removal agency, is bidding for a piece of Seattle's garbage collection contract.

If Martin is allowed to implement what he calls "my best idea, my get-people-riled-up thing," we could all soon be subject to a kind of garbage audit, too. He wants to bring the equivalent of the red-light camera to your front curb. Just as the traffic camera captures you running through a stoplight, CleanScapes' incriminating photos would catch you improperly disposing of a milk carton. (It belongs in the recycling bin.)

"We could do it the nice way," he says, meaning his company would e-mail you pictures of your detritus, along with helpful information about separating out recyclables. Or, he says, CleanScapes could send the pictures on to municipal inspectors, and "the city could enforce its own laws." (While the city has sent warning letters, no fines have ever been issued, according to Seattle Public Utilities.)

Read the whole article: It's the heartwarming story of how this well-bred liberal, scouting about for a way to change the world, stumbled upon great ideas like this.

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  1. “I know it sounds far-fetched, but I’m convinced that [Dumpsters] hide a lot of problems,”

    Well, as long as he’s convinced, that’s good enough for me!

    Now, Chris, about that visually polluting shirt you are wearing…I am convinced it indicates…

  2. Why is recycling better than merely putting the stuff into landfills? BTW, I’ll grant that recycling aluminum makes a great deal of sense.

  3. “We could do it the nice way,” he says

    Or I could hire someone to break that mo-fo’s kneecaps. His choice.

  4. I thought Coldplay sucked before, but now…

    Why is recycling better than merely putting the stuff into landfills? BTW, I’ll grant that recycling aluminum makes a great deal of sense.

    It depends on the material. Metals and glass are good for recycling because they cost very little to turn back into raw materials. That’s why you see homeless people grabbing cans and bottles from the trash; they actually make a profit on these items.

    Paper and plastic, however, due to their complex chemical structure, don’t break down into base elements, and you spend far more energy trying to recycle them.

    For you greenies out there:

    More energy use = more fossil fuels spent on power

    Therefore, recycling (or more accurately, trying to recycle) paper and plastics are bad.

  5. In Coralville, IA and Bloomington, IN, if a plastic bit somehow finds its way in amongst the tin cans, the friendly recycling truck fellows will leave the whole kit and caboodle on the curb.

    Then you come home and find your (mostly but apparently not entirely) properly sorted recycling has been blown down the street.

    And since you’re only given one bin and they only come around twice a month, it’s doubly difficult to keep the recycling in order the next time.

    It’s also sweet of them to leave the scummy paper sorting bags behind. They must be recycled, they can’t be placed in the regular trash, but they won’t be picked up if they were “reused” to hold the remainder of the recycling.

    O_o

    Louisville is sweet. We’ve got big recycling centers to which you BYO crap, and we can sell our aluminum for $0.77 a pound.

    Oh! and I heard about an artists’ community starting up on a defunct Indiana (where they do some things right) landfill. The artists can use all the methane they want for running their kilns and blast furnaces. Smart, neh?

  6. I… drive my trash to the dump. Yay autonomyu!

  7. CleanScapes’ incriminating photos would catch you improperly disposing of a milk carton. (It belongs in the recycling bin.)

    I don’t see how this would work in a city with public trash cans everywhere to prevent littering.

  8. “He wants to bring the equivalent of the red-light camera to your front curb. Just as the traffic camera captures you running through a stoplight, CleanScapes’ incriminating photos would catch you improperly disposing of a milk carton.”

    Next up, a red light camera for your toilet to enforce Sheryl Crow’s new eco effort “2 squares per person per flush”. Incriminating photos will be mailed to houses of people using more than 2 squares, as well as posted to a community website for all to see!

  9. I just put all my garbage, unsorted, into a single bag and put it in front of Dondero’s house.

  10. Now wait a minute. Hippobotomus is a robotic horse… shouldn’t it be Hippobottomus?

    just sayin’

  11. …improperly disposing of a milk carton…

    How do you “properly” dispose of a Coldplay CD? .40 S&W, .45, or 12 ga.?

  12. I vote all uses of the word “green” be removed from the English language in all ways other than describing the color of something, certain vegetables, and as an expression of age.

  13. seconded

  14. Any “industry” that requires free labor to be profitable is a scam.

    Garbage cameras. “Friendly” letters. The city paying someone to watch what you throw away.

    Nope. No slippery slope here at all.

    (The sad part is, I’d probably recycle the stuff that made sense to recycle, but now all I want to do is gather all my trash up and dump it on this fuckhead’s lawn.)

  15. Well, at least we’ve finally found an example of privitization of public services that Reasonoids are not in favor of.

  16. How do you “properly” dispose of a Coldplay CD? .40 S&W, .45, or 12 ga.?

    1 1/4 lb block of TNT, 1 #9 commercial blasting cap, 6 feet of slow burn fuse, duct tape.

  17. More energy use = more fossil fuels spent on power

    Perhaps, how much is used to take trees to paper? Can one treat a point source better than a whole bunch of distributed sources? How much fuel is consumed by the compactor in the landfill, the truck driving it? Such trite and misleading statements are damn near as bad as the Brady Bunch linking global warming to the “assault weapon” ban and are unbecoming of civilized discourse.

    I tend to be a severe recycling type, I admit. I do it because I believe it’s right. I don’t think that such things like mandatory recycling is appropriate, though, and nothing even remotely like camera enforcment is in any way justifiable.

    Does drive me crazy though to see what people drop in recycling bins, driving to the station, when we have curbside pickup for trash which doesn’t cost anything separate as it’s in the taxes. I’ve seen weatherstripping, paint buckets, computer monitors, styrofoam, etc. If you’re going to throw it away, why drive it X miles and make a bunch more trash (as they’ll put the entire dumpster in the landfill rather than sort it, most likely) when you can just put it on the curb? It seems like either people are intentionally trying to be assholes, or they’re just absolutely freaking stupid.

    Speaking of which, has anyone brought suit against Ditech yet? “People are smart”-like hell they are, false advertising.

  18. Well, at least we’ve finally found an example of privitization of public services that Reasonoids are not in favor of.

    I don’t think government contracts to enforce government regulations necessarily qualify as privatization.

  19. CleanScapes could send the pictures on to municipal inspectors, and
    “the city could enforce its own laws.”

    “You know, the Nazis had pieces of flair they made the Jews wear.”

  20. They can expect to take pictures of Chris Martin in my dumpster.

  21. crimethink has it right. were they to start auditing my garbage where i live i’ll just start tossing it in the bin in the park or at work. really, not a big effort. i just have to be sure that no mail or anything with my name on it is included.

    I am a huge proponent of an end to curbside pick up and the creation of municipal depots where you drop it off. and yes, you should be able to get money for your aluminum cans.

  22. “In Coralville, IA and Bloomington, IN, if a plastic bit somehow finds its way in amongst the tin cans, the friendly recycling truck fellows will leave the whole kit and caboodle on the curb.

    “Then you come home and find your (mostly but apparently not entirely) properly sorted recycling has been blown down the street. …”

    (REST OF DEPRESSING POST SNIPPED)

    Surely some think tank somewhere has calculated the total value of the labor hours Americans devote to all this stuff, and compared it to the actual economic return that results from mandatory recycling — yes? And surely it’s been shown to be a loss, economically speaking?

    (If so, then…) All the labor we’re forced to devote must be for some other cause. What is it? Making our weekly sacrifice to the Earth God? Paying our penance to same? I know it’s a cliche at this point to compare environmentalism to religion, but there’s a reason it became a cliche in the first place.

  23. Way too simplistic, Taktix.

    For one thing, energy inputs are not the only factor to consider. There is the acreage of trees not clearcut for pulp, for example.

    Second, there are different types of recycling. HDPE bottles to HDPE bottles is one thing, but newer processes like plasticization (sp?) allows all sorts of plastics to be recycled together into a building block material – much less complicated and energy intensive.

    Ditto with paper – are we talking about bleaching mixed paper back to office paper? Or to some kind of card stock?

  24. “Metals and glass are good for recycling because they cost very little to turn back into raw materials”

    Yes for metals but not for glass. It takes more resources to transpot the glass and recycle it than it does to make new glass. Glass is basically heated sand so it is not like we are using some dwindling resource to make it.

    Houshold recycling is one of the biggest shams ever purpetraited on the public. Because you have to send two trucks out instead of one and you have to sort the stuff, recycling more than doubles the resources necessary for garbage collection with the only real benefit being a marginal reduction in landfill use. it really doesn’t help the environment. Household recycling is for today’s secular greens what saying Hail Mary’s used to be for devout Catholics; something that makes them feel good and feel that they are paying for their sins but of little consiquence in the real world.

    It has of course become much worse in the past few years because recycling programs have become an excuse to violate our privacy and control how we live. Whenever there is some intrusive government form of green dogooderism, just ask yourself one question; if they wanted to invade your privacy and control your actions like this in the name of terrorism, what would the people advocating it have to say? The answer is that they would have a fit. The same people who wear tinfoil hats and are convinced George Bush is listening to their telphone calls and planning to send them to GUITMO, have no problems rumaging through your garbage and punishing you for not living a PC lifestyle.

  25. Great quote:

    …A half-hour or so into the [dumpster diving], a crew member tears open a pair of bags piled high with recyclable paper, and a ripple of excitement runs through the group. They’re like cops who’ve just found the rock of cocaine they knew was hiding somewhere.

    Yeah, they’ve just found another use for SWAT teams.

  26. John,

    Yes, I have never understood the recycling of glass.

  27. John –
    2 trucks? Not where I live

  28. “…A half-hour or so into the [dumpster diving], a crew member tears open a pair of bags piled high with recyclable paper, and a ripple of excitement runs through the group. They’re like cops who’ve just found the rock of cocaine they knew was hiding somewhere.

    Yeah, they’ve just found another use for SWAT teams.”

    Damn straight they have. Don’t think it is not coming. Europe is crazy about this stuff. They haven’t gotten to swat teams but Europeans tend to be better behaved drones than Americans are. If I want to pay to have my garbage picked up I should be able to. This issue goes at the basis of how we live and our freedom to make choices. If the government can stay out of my bedroom, why the hell can’t it stay out of my kitchen trashcan?

  29. “John –
    2 trucks? Not where I live”

    Most places it does. I would like to see how that works in your neighborhood. You would have to have a special truck that has a compartment for the recyclables.

  30. It takes more resources to transpot the glass and recycle it than it does to make new glass.

    Maybe, but does it take more energy to transport the glass and recycle it than it would to transport the glass to the landfill, transport that much sand to the glass factory, and make new glass in its place?

    You need to put all of the relevant variables in on both sides of the equation.

  31. Reinmoose,

    We have three trucks that come through. (Trash, recyclables, yard waste.)

  32. “Maybe, but does it take more energy to transport the glass and recycle it than it would to transport the glass to the landfill, transport that much sand to the glass factory, and make new glass in its place?”

    No it really doesn’t. Glass is incredibly cheap to make. Morover, glass is not what is filling landfills. It is old newspapers and diapers as much as anything. If you want to do something about the landfill problem, forget recycling and ban mass mailings and mandate smaller newspapers. That would go a long way to reducing the amount of trash people produce.

  33. And ban phonebooks to. They take up huge space as well.

  34. > The same people who wear tinfoil hats and are convinced George Bush is listening to their telphone calls …

    I hope Chris Martin will make sure they put their tin foil hats in the corect recycle bin when they are done with them!

  35. I thought glass recycling made sense because of sulfur release during raw sand -> glass processing. (Or, rather, would make sense if the externalities of sulfur release were greater than the economic cost of recycling vs. raw materials. (I’m not saying I know the answer to that question, and the Internet seems to be of little help.))

    Also, my area will not take milk cartons (i.e. wax or plastic coated paper for recycling.) Would I still be reported by Citizen Martin?

  36. I’ve been wondering why they don’t just take the newspapers and phone books to the composting field with the yard waste. Lord knows you can never have too much good soil.

  37. joe,

    Almost all printing is done with soy ink (at least the black lettering) so I can’t see a reason why not. Also, why can’t we put food waste into the yard scrap bin? It’s all going to rot in a field for use by the city parks. (Quite a bit of compost / garden soil is made with restaurant food waste, so there’s probably no health issue.)

  38. “I thought glass recycling made sense because of sulfur release during raw sand -> glass processing.”

    The problem is that you either re-melt the glass in a furnace which presumably would create just as much sulfur or you wash and reuse the glass which creates water pollution. It is a tough nut to crack. I think people ought to stop worrying about glass and go for the low hanging fruit of mass mailings, newspapers and phonebooks. It would have the added benefit of ending junk mail. I am serious. I would stop bulk rate shipping. Make everything have to be mailed first class and bad private companies like FEDEX from filling the void. I would also ban the practice of throwing advertising circulars in people’s yards and ban the placing of phonebooks on people’s doors. If you want them, you should have to go and get them. My guess is that in the day and age of 411.com and if you made it the PC thing to do, most people wouldn’t get them.

  39. Banning bulk mail would put some of the joy and excitement back into checking the mail.

    Of course, once a month I know the ultimate mailbox joy. My wife got me a membership to the Bacon of the Month Club for my birthday.

  40. I’ve been wondering why they even deliver phone books to everyone anymore. Is there some big printing racket with them? You use it what, 2, 3 times a year?

    Put the resources used in making phone books into beefing up internet directories and tell people to use them. It’s gotta be better than delivering 10 pounds of paper to everyone every year.

  41. Warming up the crystal ball… I see, it’s getting clearer now… Ahh, yes, I see a large increase of illegal dumping in Seattle’s future. Just think how good I’dd be if I had Gypsy blood in me!

  42. Re: the article
    I would never wade through heaps of trash in shorts.
    Just… ewwwwww

  43. More proof that the only difference between liberals and conservatives is what laws they want to bash my head in with.

    They all still want a piece of us, probably why they cooperate so well on the drug war, they each want us in chains, just for different reasons.

  44. If you want to do something about the landfill problem, forget recycling and ban mass mailings and mandate smaller newspapers.

    Brilliant! Kills two or three birds with one stone.

    One of the first things Bloomberg did as NYC mayor was end one of our recycling streams (I think it was paper?), citing the fact that it was losing money. That didn’t last very long and I don’t remember what supposedly made it worthwhile again.

    And what I really want to know is, if we’re so goddamn clever, why doesn’t there exist a *machine* to sort our garbage? How difficult could it possibly be to feed all garbage through a machine and pick out the recyclables?

  45. Sticking his nose in other peoples business, he is just following in Washingtons foot steps.

  46. Bacon of the Month Club

    I think I just threw up a little. Since the advent of turkey bacon, regular bacon kind of grosses me out. Or it could be that most of the bacon I encounter is crap–underdone and full of fat.

  47. Rhywun,

    We have those down here where I live. They’re called “illegal immigrants”. Pretty cheap, too. If one breaks, you can always get another.

    More seriously, automation of the process is possible. It’s just, like many automation tasks, god awful expensive. Most municipalities don’t have or won’t spend the kind of money it takes to have a workable solution. Besides, why build and maintain a machine when you can browbeat suckers the public into doing the work for you?

  48. “weatherstripping, paint buckets, computer monitors, styrofoam, etc.”

    People probably think that stuff can be recycled.

  49. SugarFree,

    I know that you aren’t supposed to put meat in the compost bin, because it will attract pests.

    John’s got a good idea about mass mailings.

  50. If one breaks, you can always get another.

    I thought of that too, but I didn’t want to open up that can of worms.

    why build and maintain a machine

    True. Like so many other little freedoms, we’ll only get it back if/when the country goes to pot and more important matters rise to the surface.

  51. How do you “properly” dispose of a Coldplay CD? .40 S&W, .45, or 12 ga.?
    Remove “a” and “CD” and then make your choice.

  52. Thank you Joe. I am not all evil, just mostly evil.

  53. I know that you aren’t supposed to put meat in the compost bin, because it will attract pests.

    Freegans?

  54. Damn freegan squirrels, they got opposable thumbs and everything!

    You ought see how they chatter at the Running Dogs of capitalism.

  55. I’ve been wondering why they don’t just take the newspapers and phone books to the composting field with the yard waste. Lord knows you can never have too much good soil.

    Actually newspaper can be shredded for cellulose insulating material. You have to use more to get the equivalent R-value as fiberglass but it’s much cheaper.

    Home Depot even includes lending a machine to blow the stuff into your attic if you buy it there.

    I know that you aren’t supposed to put meat in the compost bin, because it will attract pests.

    I’ve heard that it is actually possible to include meat in compost, you just have to do it right.

    Trouble is large chunks will attract critters who’ll dig into the compost pile to eat it.

    There is also a problem with undesirable bacterial growth* I believe. But I’m fairly sure properly aging the material takes care of that.

    *as opposed to the desirable bacterial growth you want to occur in a compost pile.

  56. “I know that you aren’t supposed to put meat in the compost bin, because it will attract pests.

    Freegans?”

    That is a problem. Usely a few shotgun blasts over their heads will run them off. Unfortunetately, they just wait until dark and come back again. They are worse than dogs, you can’t even call the pound on them.

  57. I live near Seattle, where they force highly paid professionals to sort through their trash like raccoons.

    My sister lives in Sacramento, where they put all their trash into one giant bin. Waste Disposal takes it all to a central processing plant where it is sorted.

    The Sacramento model is vastly superior, but it doesn’t make people feel good, so they would never allow it in Seattle.

  58. Isaac,

    My goal is to make the bacteria in my compost bin so hardy that I can just feed paper in there like a shredder.

  59. Is there really a “landfill problem?” From what I’ve read, there’s plenty of landfill space available and the new ones are safer than ever, even producing electricity.

    Still, I think plasma conversion will make landfills and recycling obsolete, hopefully in my lifetime.

  60. And what I really want to know is, if we’re so goddamn clever, why doesn’t there exist a *machine* to sort our garbage? How difficult could it possibly be to feed all garbage through a machine and pick out the recyclables?

    Such machines already exist for the recycling of junked cars. I watched a very interesting “Modern Marvels” program about it a few months back. Only a handful of plastic parts are not ultimately recycled.

  61. Mass mailings are profitable for the post office. First class mail isn’t. Just sayin’.

  62. “There’s no way to rule innocent men. The only power government has is the power to crack down on criminals. When there aren’t enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws.”

  63. I actually like the raccoon that lives in the backyard, but then he’s never figured out how to get in the trashcans. He seems content to run off with a few things from my compost heap, but since I gave up on growing vegetables the compost heap just sort of just sits there anyway.

    OK, for you bigger city types… what’s the problem with the homeless and other “scavengers” taking recyclables from bins to sell? Is it the mess they make? Are they somehow cutting into the city’s recycling “profits?”

    Disclaimer: Scavengers of all types are welcome to my refuse, as long as they don’t make a mess of it.

  64. Les – yes, there is no shortage of landfill space. Back in the 1980’s there was a temporary local landfill shortage in the northeast, which was vastly overblown.

    In reality, we could dig a one mile square hole in the desert of Nevada a hundred feet deep and it would take over 1000 years to fill. As anyone who’s ever driven across this country can tell you, the last thing we’re running out of is open space…

  65. It depends on what you mean by “landfill problem.”

    We could take some buildable land in housing-short, open-space-threatened eastern Massachusetts and use it for landfill space. Sure, there are plots of land we could take out of the market for that use. But is that a good idea?

  66. Bronwyn | October 2, 2007, 8:55am | #
    Now wait a minute. Hippobotomus is a robotic horse… shouldn’t it be Hippobottomus?

    just sayin’

    Absolutely. For context…
    https://www.reason.com/blog/show/122766.html#798185

  67. For some facts on recycling glass

    http://www.gpi.org/recycling/

    Saves energy
    Using cullet allows the glass container industry to reduce energy input to its furnaces. Energy costs drop about 2-3% for every 10% cullet used in the manufacturing process.
    Decreases processing by-products
    The glass recycling process is a closed-loop system, creating no additional waste or by-products.
    Lessens greenhouse gas emissions
    For container glass, a relative 10% increase in cullet reduces particulates by 8%, nitrogen oxide by 4%, and sulfur oxides by 10%. And, for every six tons of recycled container glass used, one ton of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, is reduced (Source: Glass Recycling, “Kirk-Othmer Encyclopedia of Chemical Technology” 4th edition, 1999).

    Don’t believe John’s illinformed hype.

  68. I also agree with John’s thoughts on mass mailing…fwiw.

  69. “weatherstripping, paint buckets, computer monitors, styrofoam, etc.”

    People probably think that stuff can be recycled.

    Much of it can be. Your point?

  70. What is it with phonebooks? This is a tool that has been so completely replaced by the internet and 411 that I am shocked that they still exist. Every year I get three phone books and within hours I take the phonebooks and dump them in the recycling bin. I’ve called the company that distributes them and they seem completely surprised that anyone would not want them. Ugh … and yet the next year – three more books…

    /rant

  71. Disclaimer: Scavengers of all types are welcome to my refuse, as long as they don’t make a mess of it.

    Is there really a difference between the wino collecting tin cans and the entrepreneur salvaging a treasure laden shipwreck? In degree only, I’d say.

  72. Here in gubermint land in Montgomery county Maryland, there are laws about recycling a certain percentage of paper used at a location. Because most of the paper we have contains trade secret information and must be officially shredded, we do not meet our recycling quota.

    I got a bonus for my idea – recycl our office (recycled) paper until we meet our recycling quota.

  73. Yes, SugarFree, it’s the mess they make.

  74. what’s the problem with the homeless and other “scavengers” taking recyclables from bins to sell?

    Yep, the mess. I don’t care when they take stuff from the bin because the items are loose in there. It’s after the landlord brings the bags to the curb that I have a problem. They tear the bags open and sometimes spread shit all over the place.

  75. ChrisO, Joe

    So Modern Marvels isn’t all about Sippy Cups these days? Awesome.

    Seriously, though:

    How do you “properly” dispose of a Coldplay CD? .40 S&W, .45, or 12 ga.?

    .308–the pretty shards can be used to make Christmas decorations.

  76. “OK, for you bigger city types… what’s the problem with the homeless and other “scavengers” taking recyclables from bins to sell? Is it the mess they make? Are they somehow cutting into the city’s recycling “profits?”

    Nothing except that they also take your bills and sell them to people who then steal your identity. I used to live in Atlanta and we had a lot of homeless people who scavenged the dumpstes in a very professional way. They never seemed to take away any cans, just bags of papers.

  77. You will find that the city’s rationale for keeping the homeless (and others) from taking recyclables from bins at the curb is that once there they are city property and a source of revenue.

    As long as they are on your property they are yours. You are perfectly free in most places to try to find a buyer for any of your waste. So far only aluminum has any kind of market that individuals have access to. The earnings from bottles comes from state mandated bottle deposits. In Florida where there are no bottle deposits the homeless only go after aluminum cans.

  78. I happen to live out in the sticks where most everyone has a burn barrel and burns their trash. The nonburnable stuff like metal and glass gets hauled to the landfill. You burn all that is burnable and the glass and metal for me I have to take to the landfill only every couple of years. I clean it before throwing it away and store it long term in a metal bin that gets loaded in the back of the truck. I take it to the landfill and it costs a whole 10 dollars or something to dump. If you’re really ambitious you can toss your aluminum separately and melt it down. Lots of folks around here will do that. Me I’m not into pawing through my trash like a starving raccoon. Burnable and nonburnable and that is it.

  79. Nobody paws through trash!

    You put some trash in your trash can, and other trash in a bin.

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