Brickbats

Brickbat: Shifting the Costs

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With the market for recyclables in the doldrums, some Maine cities have opted to end their curbside recycling programs because the costs of those programs exceed the costs of just sending that material to the landfill. But Democratic state Rep. Ralph Tucker has a 21-page bill that would force companies that make packaging to subsidize local recycling programs. Industry officials oppose the bill, noting that it will do nothing to actually create a market for recyclables and that it would force them to pass the costs onto consumers.

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  1. Think of all the plastic wasted making recycling bins. Too funny.

    1. Think of all carbon savings with only one truck on the road!

      1. None. If it takes 20 truckloads to haul away garbage for a city, makes no difference whether it’s 20 trucks making one trip and lasting 20 times as long in years, or one truck making 20 trips and wearing itself out 20 times as soon.

        1. That’s…not how vehicle longevity works.

  2. It sounds reasonable, libertarian even, to force companies to cover the total cost of their products, from mandating land restoration for mining operations and pollution controls to contain noxious manufacturing emissions to disposal costs of packaging – but the thing is, in cases like these, your tax dollars already pay for trash disposal, so if they start charging some sort of user fees like they do with so many other government services, then where the hell are our tax dollars going?

    Moreover, assuming this guy isn’t pushing this bill on behalf of a family member or a campaign contributor who happens to own a recycling company, if his aim is to clean up the environment, might there not be more efficient ways to do it? If you’re going to charge a 5 cent-per-pound tax on plastic manufacturers or whatever, might not using that money to plant trees or something and continue burying plastic in landfills do more to benefit the environment than funding recycling programs? Has he thought about that or is he a victim of tunnel vision where he sees that recycling plastic is a good thing and therefore plastic recycling must be done no matter if it costs 27 gazillion dollars?

    1. My guess is tunnel vision. It seems to me that a lot of these people get fixated on one idea and will push that while ignoring everything else.

      Case in point: I recently saw an environmental appeal to address the problem of Indonesia producing a huge amount of plastic waste in the oceans. Their proposal was to pressure the Indonesian government to ban single-use plastic bags. I laughed because the problem is that their waste handling sucks and garbage put out on the street ends up in rivers and then oceans. Banning plastic bags won’t have an impact on that. It’s sad when people miss the Forest for the trees.

      1. I recently saw an environmental appeal to address the problem of Indonesia producing a huge amount of plastic waste in the oceans.

        I await the clamor for actually *going to war* with countries that are destroying the planet/climate.

    2. your tax dollars already pay for trash disposal, so if they start charging some sort of user fees like they do with so many other government services, then where the hell are our tax dollars going?
      You should be familiar with fungible budgeting:
      1. Force companies to raise prices to transfer $x to the government (or raise taxes, fees, whatever) dedicated to purpose A.
      2. Reduce general fund expenditures for purpose A by $x.
      3. You now have $x to spend on pet projects.

    3. your tax dollars already pay for trash disposal

      Not anywhere I’ve lived—I’ve paid for trash pickup all my life. Where is it that taxes pay for trash disposal?

      1. “Not anywhere I’ve lived—I’ve paid for trash pickup all my life.”

        Were you paying a private company for trash pickup or your local city/town/village?

        Most everywhere in the US outside of unincorporated rural areas, trash pickup is handled by local government. Even if they are charging “user fees”, it’s highly unlikely those fees come close to covering the full cost of the operation.

        1. Around here, local governments haven’t operated their own trash collection since the 1960s or 1970s. The way it’s done now is that municipal governments contract with private refuse collection companies and negotiate rates with them, and the customers pay the fees, either directly to the concessionaire or through the utilities office of the municipality (depending on whether the town operates its own utilities). And yes, the fees do cover the full cost.

          1. Right – so you’re basically paying the city. Which is a tax.

            1. No, not really. The city’s only role is acting as the collection agency for the concessionaire. The money goes directly to the disposal company, not into the city’s funds.

        2. My local government operates convenience centers where you can drop off trash. If you want curbside pickup, you have to pay a private company. My HOA has a contract that is part of our itemized dues.

      2. Pretty much every city I’ve lived in, trash disposal was included in property tax.

        Its only recently, moving out into a rural area, that I’ve paid directly – and has a *choice* – of trash disposal companies.

    4. That’s only if you ignore the fact of consumer choices.

      Also, how do you tell *which* company should be responsible?

      A company that makes plastic bags has innumerable sub-suppliers.

      And those suppliers have innumerable suppliers.

      Aren’t you really saying that we should charge resource extraction companies more money to deal with with externalities of products that are 5,6, 10, 100 links down a manufacturing chain? Where the raw material extractor has no idea what’s been done with the material and absolutely no control over it?

  3. Simply ban plastic. Do I have to think of everything?

    1. Cheaper is banning politicians. And more fun. Since they don’t really have a job, no unemployment.

      1. Just get it over and ban all humans.

    2. I have too many plastic parts at this point to get on board with that.

  4. The “War on Plastics” has nothing to do with the environment. It is all about “sticking it to “Big Oil””. Both Bloomberg and DeBlasio have even admitted it. Most plastics will break down when exposed to ultraviolet light, so what do we do with them? We bury them. I set up a science project for my Great Niece. We set a plastic water bottle outside on a window ledge. We had a camera rigged to take a picture of the bottle a few times a day. After about a month and a half, the bottle had broke down. We compiled the pictures into a video. Her teacher tried to replicate the experiment in her classroom and it didn’t work. We were accused of faking the experiment. I went to the classroom and it took me five seconds to figure out what was wrong. She had the bottle on the inside window ledge and the window had a UV filter. We put it outside and it worked perfectly.

    By the way, UV light also kills viruses. Hmmmmm.

    1. Why do we care if it breaks down? What’s wrong with its becoming landfill?

  5. “Most plastics will break down when exposed to ultraviolet light, so what do we do with them? We bury them.”

    It breaks down in the oceans too. The supposed garbage island in the Pacific gyre? most of it is microscopic bits of plastics with a density on the order of a few grams per cubic meter of ocean water.

    And they have discovered micro organisms that eat the plastic.

    George Carlin was right. Humans exit because the Earth wanted plastics. 🙂

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