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Forced Recycling Fee and Government-Mandated Monopoly (Bountiful)

August 19, 2008
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The Bountiful City Council has formally passed (shoved down our throats) another fee for the benefit of a special interest group.  At least not all members supported the move – Councilman Fred Moss stood alone in opposing the contract approval.

Here’s my take on all this:

I, personally, recycle the majority of my waste and have been using the bins provided at local stores, schools, and charities (such as the Boy Scouts or Food Bank) as they derive additional funding from the bins.

However, I continue to find it completely offensive that anyone would be forced to pay for the benefit of a small interest group, particularly when the result is a government-mandated monopoly (all are forced to pay fees to a single private recycling company, regardless of service quality or use).  The action the city council has taken rips the freedom of choice from Bountiful residents.

Currently, Bountiful has a perfectly viable waste disposal service which will remain so for long into the future and claims of how many years a mandated recycling program will save, are dubious, at best. Further, if landfill capacity were at a truly critical mass, fees would go up to reflect the change in supply/demand (or transportation to another landfill) and a recycling program would either cut the cost or have no impact on the cost of disposal services rather than constituting an increased fee.  (Note: feel free to check the “Further reading” links at the end of the post for more information on recycling myths and putting landfill space into perspective).

I am also disappointed in the behavior of Council members essentially sneaking in the mandate while nobody was paying attention to the issue.  The decision was rendered under the auspices of a “recycling discussion” according the the agenda I received.  This was in a week that the optional program charges had been altered by the selected contractor.  As someone paying attention to the issue, I made (the now poor) assumption that the discussion would be limited to the above issue as well as any other logistical issues associated with the previously approved voluntary program.  Additionally, according to the agenda, no formal public comment was scheduled.  In my  opinion, it is highly suspect to promulgate a mandate which affects so many under the guise of a “discussion” with no public comment.

On a personal side, I have a diabetic child and a grandparent on a fixed income.  The program will cost two months of diabetes medication (insulin) and my grandparent two months of her prescribed eye medication (best of all, I also found out that my child needs braces).  The council and special interests appear content to continue to heap burdens on the elderly and young families despite an economic downturn, inflationary pressures, and significantly increased energy and food costs.  It should also be noted that, given its fixed cost, the recycling mandate will be regressive affecting the poorest residents proportionally more than others.

Finally, as Ifirst stated, many companies are happy to pay for truly recyclable goods (such as paper and aluminum) which have a market (hence charities and other entities being able to reap a benefit from their bins).  Trash (or “recycled” good without a market), on the other hand, is something you pay others to remove for you.  Rather than educating the public on recyclable goods and the plethora of conveniently located bins available, proponents have opted to force all to pay for a single company to take away their ‘recyclable’ goods which have no self-sustaining market.

Further reading:
Gang Green – WSJ article on the ‘recycling uberlords’ draconian rules (noted here as well) to “change behavior”…coming to a city near you.
Eight Great Myths of Recycling (PDF) or click here for a summarized version – By economist Daniel Benjamin

Ending on positive: The City Council will consider giving deployed National Guard servicemen/women families a $75 utility credit each month (kudos to Mr. Novak for presenting this and Councilman Moss for supporting the proposal).

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