Beware the … Garbage Police!

posted at 9:50 am on August 5, 2008 by Ed Morrissey

San Francisco may soon deputize its garbage collectors and have them inspecting refuse before hauling it away.  Residents who fail to compost food waste could find themselves fined a thousand dollars and without garbage service, under a new proposal from Mayor Gavin Newsom:

Garbage collectors would inspect San Francisco residents’ trash to make sure pizza crusts aren’t mixed in with chip bags or wine bottles under a proposal by Mayor Gavin Newsom.

And if residents or businesses don’t separate the coffee grounds from the newspapers, they would face fines of up to $1,000 and eventually could have their garbage service stopped.

The plan to require proper sorting of refuse would be the nation’s first mandatory recycling and composting law. It would direct garbage collectors to inspect the trash to make sure it is put into the right blue, black or green bin, according to a draft of the legislation prepared by the city’s Department of the Environment.

The program is designed to limit the amount of food and foliage that goes into the city-contracted landfill in Alameda County, where the refuse takes up costly space and decomposes to form methane, one of the most potent of greenhouse gases. It will also help San Francisco, which city officials say currently diverts 70 percent of its waste from landfills, achieve a goal set by the Board of Supervisors to divert 75 percent by 2010 and have zero waste by 2020.

This stupidity extends to several levels.  First, let’s look at the practical implications of such a regulatory regime.  Trash collection requires efficient use of vehicles and personnel.  If sanitation workers have to stop and inspect every barrel and dumpster for compliance, it will make the entire process much more labor intensive and require an expansion of collection vehicles.  Not only would the cost be prohibitive, but the increase in idling vehicles waiting for inspections to end before moving to the next stop would actually make emissions even worse than before.

Next, how does one enforce compliance in multi-tenant dwellings?  Apartments and condos usually use communal dumpsters rather than individual barrels, again for efficiency.  If the garbage is unsorted, who gets fined — the tenants or the landlords?  Neither one could be proven responsible for the misdemeanor in court.  If landlords risk fines and suspension of service because of tenant behavior they cannot possibly control, or even trace, then expect property values to take a dive while people sell of their assets in real estate.

Philosophically speaking, this represents a gross intrusion (in more than one sense of the word) of government into private life.  Recycling plans work because they’re voluntary; most people don’t mind a simple sorting process involving one bin for refuse and another for recyclables.  If they are required to start using three, four, or five bins for sorting their trash upon threat of prosecution, the good will compliance will end and people will stop recycling altogether.  And wait until the municipal courts get flooded with the accused looking to clear their good names and avoid the $1,000 fine.  Plus, can the garbage collectors even levy those citations without being sworn officers of the law or at least employed by law enforcement?

It’s yet another nutty idea from America’s leading source of them.  I’d give it even odds of passage.  (via The Corner)

Update: This reminded me of the excellent Penn & Teller Bulls**t! show in which they debunked recycling as beneficial for all but aluminum cans.  Here is the most applicable part of that episode to today’s story (not safe for work):

If you haven’t watched the show before, you owe it to yourself to give it a try.

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“In 2005, the city’s residential recycling program saved $4.4 million (comparing landfill costs to recycling processing costs) by collecting and selling more than 160 million pounds of recyclables to markets throughout the nation and the Pacific Rim.”

Yes, and I’m absolutely sure the bureaucrats involved in these programs accurately tabulated the savings along with all associated costs. Because they have so much incentive to do so.

And I’m also sure the media, which loves nanny state programs like this, accurately audited the program.

Finally, just because it works in Europe and Asia, doesn’t mean it will work here. We Americans don’t fall so easily into line, when the government orders compliance with a dopey idea like this.

NoDonkey on August 5, 2008 at 2:12 PM

inviolet:

You ridiculed this point right after that comment.

No I didn’t

the cost of checking and enforcement

Checking and enforcement does not have to be done by the garbage collectors. The UK, as I mentioned, has “refuse snoopers” who do this job. As I also said, Seatle saves 4.4 million per year after enacting a similar law. I you pay a “refuse snooper” 40k, you can hire over 100 of these “refuse snoopers” to do the job. I doubt if in reality you would need more than a dozen or so. Of course, with 100 snoopers you would then lose the money you save, but then you would make more money on fines. Also, you would still have the environmental benefits and also the benefit of employing 100 people.
As it is, garbage men in my neighborhood already put stickers on peoples garbage who recycle improperly. The only added cost in the SF plan is that the collectors would have to log violations. I doubt that this would be a large time committment. I think your argument that people are looking at this for a cost/benefit persepctive is disingenuous.

dave742 on August 5, 2008 at 2:13 PM

NoDonkey:

just because it works in Europe and Asia, doesn’t mean it will work here. We Americans don’t fall so easily into line, when the government orders compliance with a dopey idea like this

This is what it always comes down to, regardless of the issue. The rest of the world is stupid, and only Americans (and maybe Israelis) know what the hell is going on. American exceptionalism. (Which is ironic considering that Americans consistently score near the bottom in intelligence rankings).

If there is a room of 140 people, and 139 think one way vs one who thinks the opposite, I think it might be time for that one person to consider that he might be wrong.

dave742 on August 5, 2008 at 2:20 PM

dave742,

Where did I say the rest of the world is stupid?

They’re simply more compliant.

Personally, I liked when I drove in France last December and people (gasp!), actually passed on the left and stayed to the right except to pass. It was like the road to heaven, you could actually predict what other drivers were going to do. What a concept.

Just sayin’, Americans don’t like being told what to do. I sort my recyclables, and feel like a schmuck when I find garbage in the can bin, McDonalds bags in the newspaper bin and bottles and newspapers in the garbage bin (I live in a little urban condo).

Who knows, it might work in San Francisco but a far simpler version of it is not working here in Northern Virginia.

NoDonkey on August 5, 2008 at 2:33 PM

dave742 on August 5, 2008 at 2:13 PM

Sorry, guess I was thinking of Dave Rywall – he ridiculed the emissions concept, not you:

Ahh, fogw – Pulls wild assumptions out of a part of his body that produces methane and proclaims that the trucks required to collect the separated garbage will cause so much environmental damage it will offset the reusing and recycling of the materials. Talk about a circle jerk of nonsense.
You people need to join the rest of us in 2008.
Dave Rywall on August 5, 2008 at 10:15 AM

And speaking of Dave Rywall, he’s the one who apparently first mentioned the need for additional garbage trucks on this thread. You (above) mention the need for “snoopers” or (if that’s not done) additional garbage people will need to be hired, at a raising of taxes.

The only added cost in the SF plan is that the collectors would have to log violations. I doubt that this would be a large time committment. I

Am not a police officer but I know they consider paperwork to be the bane of their existence. This is a real cost, not negligible as you imply. Later recordkeeping of these violations and their aftermath will be yet another cost.

In addition, there will be additional environmental costs involved with the extra idling, emissions, extra trucks, and maintenance and upkeep of said trucks, benefits and salaries and taxes on the employees’ salaries, legal and court costs when people dispute in court that what was found it their garbage bin was put there by a passerby (happens all the time in my neighborhood) or a resentful neighbor eager to punish someone for whatever reason, etc. etc. I’m sure there are other costs that aren’t even occurring to me.

You’re tallying up the benefits of recycling. That’s great. I’m here, a non-professional, on a blog thread thinking about some possible costs involving how to enforce this new proposal and I’m not even responsible for debating the cost/benefit out in SF.

But of course, I can’t possibly mean what I say: I’m being “disingenuous.” I speak with you civilly and look for ways to agree with you where I can, and you insult me and call me a liar. Thanks for giving me another good impression of how a liberal acts. See you around.

inviolet on August 5, 2008 at 2:35 PM

NoDonkey:

Where did I say the rest of the world is stupid?”

“a dopey idea like this”
“accept this badge of disgrace”
“San Fran pols go in the Loony Bin”
If you think the rest of the world is enacting dopey, loony, and disgraceful ideas, I think that is what you are saying.

inviolet:

Thanks for giving me another good impression of how a liberal acts.

Oh… I offended the poor baby by using the word “disingenous.” Us liberals can be so rude sometimes. Would you like to see a list of words that have been used by wholesome conservatives towards me?

If you are not disingenuous, does that mean if I show you that a cost/benefit analysis as been done, and that the benefits clearly outweigh the costs, that you will then support my position?

dave742 on August 5, 2008 at 2:47 PM

“If you think the rest of the world is enacting dopey, loony, and disgraceful ideas, I think that is what you are saying.”

Humorless cipher, dave742 – My dispute with it, seriously, is the compliance issue. The recycling regs aren’t followed where I live and garbage police won’t change that since we have common use bins.

But what do I care what San Francisco does? I hope they go through with this and then appoint potty police due to its success.

San Francisco residents love having different people look over their shoulder, so it’s a win-win, as I see it.

NoDonkey on August 5, 2008 at 2:51 PM

Us liberals can be so rude sometimes.

You certainly can.

Would you like to see a list of words that have been used by wholesome conservatives towards me?

And not one of them used by me, of that I am sure.

I don’t continue to converse with people who assume the worst (that I’m lying – that is quite an insult in case you weren’t aware of that) and then not only refuse to apologize but then further rudely demand I prove otherwise.

My carefully considered cost/benefit analysis of speaking to you, my dear Sir, has been completed. I hope you have a good day.

inviolet on August 5, 2008 at 2:52 PM

inviolet:

And not one of them used by me, of that I am sure.

That’s not the point. Following your lead, I thought we were being very careful about word usage. When you said that I gave you “another good impression of how a liberal acts,” you are clearly contrasting this to conservatives. Surely you wouldn’t make a point out of saying liberals are rude if you thought that conservatives were far more rude. So if you are saying liberals are rude compared to conservatives, I merely wanted to make a comparison. But, alas, you won’t talk to me anymore since I have made a fatal error in my discourse with you. I will miss you dearly.

dave742 on August 5, 2008 at 3:03 PM

inviolet:
I’ve been feeling sick ever since we broke up. I can’t live without you. As the song goes:

Baby come back, any kind of fool could see
There was something in everything about you
Baby come back, you can blame it all on me
I was wrong, and I just can’t live without you

Can you please forgive me?

dave742 on August 5, 2008 at 3:24 PM

And yet another thread devolves into “It’s all about dave742″.

NoDonkey on August 5, 2008 at 3:27 PM

Residents who fail to compost food waste could find themselves fined a thousand dollars and without garbage service, under a new proposal from Mayor Gavin Newsom

Totally a Western European method. They have been policing the garbage operations for years.

Entelechy on August 5, 2008 at 3:31 PM

NoDonkey:
If a thread does not contain a liberal that is posting on it, it is nothing but a contest to find who can call liberals or Democrats “stupid” in a more witty way. Isn’t it more fun to have a liberal on the thread so you can make your witty comments directly to us?

dave742 on August 5, 2008 at 3:34 PM

dave742,

I agree and you may be many things, but you are never boring.

NoDonkey on August 5, 2008 at 3:45 PM

NoDonkey:
Mr Morrissey pays me to post here. He knows you guys need someone to hate.

dave742 on August 5, 2008 at 3:54 PM

Mr Morrissey pays me to post here. He knows you guys need someone to hate.

dave742 on August 5, 2008 at 3:54 PM

And so, another victim joins the ranks of liberals everywhere.

fogw on August 5, 2008 at 4:02 PM

fogw:
I am not playing a victim. I love it here. I’m just having fun. Relax.

inviolet:

All day long, wearing a mask of false bravado
Trying to keep up the smile that hides a tear
But as the sun goes down, I get that empty feeling again
How I wish to God that you were here

miss…you

dave742 on August 5, 2008 at 4:04 PM

“Mr Morrissey pays me to post here. He knows you guys need someone to hate.”

I’m sure you make the site counter spin, so I hope you’re being paid accordingly.

I don’t hate you. You don’t have any power over my life, unlike Democrat politicians whom I do despise so.

NoDonkey on August 5, 2008 at 4:06 PM

NoDonkey:
But don’t Democrats owe their existence to people like me who support them and their ideas? (At least you might assume that. Actually, I hate Democrats as much as you do.)

dave742 on August 5, 2008 at 4:11 PM

NoDonkey:
If a thread does not contain a liberal that is posting on it, it is nothing but a contest to find who can call liberals or Democrats “stupid” in a more witty way. Isn’t it more fun to have a liberal on the thread so you can make your witty comments directly to us?
dave742 on August 5, 2008 at 3:34 PM

At least on this thread your opinions are tolerated if not totally accepted.

If any of us would say the things you say about your “comrades” on a liberal/progressive/socialist site we would immediately be labeled as nazis, haters, homophobe, sexist, misogynist, intolerant, wife beating, child neglecting, insensitive Huns etc. and banned for life after a barrage of incessant flaming radical remarks.

You’ve always had your chance to speak haven’t you?

Welcome aboard.

1GooDDaDDy on August 5, 2008 at 4:14 PM

“But don’t Democrats owe their existence to people like me who support them and their ideas?”

Collectively, but not individually. I realize that very few people have any influence at all in our elections.

I realize how irrelevant my vote is every election day when I go and vote in my heavy Dem distract (Jim Moran is STILL here?) and 99.9% don’t have enough green to do more than make a token gesture.

So I hold the big fish responsible.

NoDonkey on August 5, 2008 at 4:22 PM

1GooDDaDDy:

If any of us would say the things you say….

I heard this before on this site, and every time I do I go check out DailyKos. I never post there or read the site, but I go to see how conservatives are treated there. Frankly, I never see what you are getting at. For instance, here is the Kos thread about tire pressure. “Insideinfo” is a conservative and defends McCain. “eashep” and “parker parrot” address him, but I don’t see the insane rudeness you speak of. On the other hand, I constantly get crap here very similar to what you claim about libs. I think you are projecting. Also, I try hard not to make rude remarks to people until they do so to me first. It’s a childish attitude to respond to rudeness with rudeness, but I never said I was as proper and polite as inviolet. I guess that’s why I want him back.

dave742 on August 5, 2008 at 4:31 PM

NoDonkey:

So I hold the big fish responsible.

I respect that.

dave742 on August 5, 2008 at 4:32 PM

Isn’t it more fun to have a liberal on the thread so you can make your witty comments directly to us?

dave742 on August 5, 2008 at 3:34 PM

It sure is. It’s the same treatment I give to skin lice. Bathing and scrubbing doesn’t get rid of them. Thus, I ignore them, unless I happen to be irritated too much by them.

Entelechy on August 5, 2008 at 4:42 PM

And, dave742, I don’t hate you at all. That would mean that you have some control over me. I’ve never even been drunk in all my life, or doped, in order not to relinquish control of self to anyone. No chance that I’d give you the honor. I’m glad you’re here, along with any commenter, of any persuasion.

On the censorship on other sites – on the ABC blog, for ex. any contrarian view is retained, not even posted. This is often the case. Even Wikipedia and Google play the game. But we can drop the examples, as every side has its lamentations, some for good reason. I say often, the far right and the far left will destroy this country. You don’t strike me to be on the far fringe.

Entelechy on August 5, 2008 at 4:48 PM

Notice how the proponents of this “recycling” foolishness always quote the tonnage of the trash picked up from recycling bins.

They never quote the meaningful number, which is the amount actually recycled!!! The fact is that a very significant portion of the stuff picked up from recycling bins actually does end up in the landfill!! If it rains during pickup or before the pickup can be processed, virtually all of the paper becomes useless and is put in the landfill.

So the only thing “recycling” does for sure is drastically increase the cost of trash pickup…to at least double what it would otherwise cost.

If people were really concerned about trash volume, the logical and sane thing to do would be to incinerate all of it!!! This would sterilize it, drastically reduce the volume, and would produce a slag and ash which could be economically processed by industry…or which could be safely buried. But this is 2000 year old field-proven technology, so the we-know-better-than-anyone-else Eco-Fascist crowd would never accept it.

landlines on August 5, 2008 at 5:55 PM

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