Sunday, August 12, 2007

We Won! ... and Now We Pay: for Solid Waste

This story, Supreme Court's decision on trash boosts recycling (interestingly placed on the newspaper's opinion page), gives us a good example of why it is bad business to let government go into business.

The US Supreme Court ruled that local governments have the right to pass laws that direct all waste and recyclables generated within their jurisdictions to their local public waste management facilities. Such laws ensure revenue to the local facilities, and create a volume of recyclables that makes them more amenable to market. Here, the funds help to offset the costs of operating the recycling center, which is a money loser.
"But, those fees fund not just the landfill, but an efficient and comprehensive recycling system and saves residents in other areas, including household hazardous waste disposal.

"Recycling is at the heart of the matter, waste authority Executive Director Hans Arnold said.

""Recycling couldn't exist without flow control," he said. In essence, requiring that local trash go to waste authority facilities ensures sufficient revenue exists to support it, he said."

How can the recycling system be "efficient" if it is a money loser? And this does not even include the cost and inconvenience associated with washing recyclables at home. Water is getting more expensive (every day it seems). Maybe "recycling," dreamed up by academicians and government theoreticians, was the wrong approach. Maybe we should not be producing the stuff that gets thrown away to begin with . . . but that is another discussion . . .

So the Court said that we were right -- but were we smart?
""There is no question it's a bad decision," Syracuse-based environmental lawyer Richard J. Brickwedde said. "The last thing we need in particular in Upstate New York is a higher cost of doing business and a higher cost of living.""
Just how much higher? Broome County, which does not have a flow control law, has a tipping fee of $40 a ton. Oneida County's tipping fee is 80% higher: $72 a ton.

While we can boast a state-of-the-art land fill, and state-of-the-art recycling center, are they worth paying 80% more than other places do for the same services?

People are not flocking to Oneida County for our solid waste management or our recycling. Add this cost on top of our higher than reasonable sales tax, on top of our near-the-top cost of utilities, on top of the costs associated with our myriad and overlapping levels of state and local government, on top of the costs of maintaining an ever expanding public infrastructure while population declines, and you will understand why our population is declining, relative incomes are falling, and jobs are disappearing.

Perhaps (and it's a BIG PERHAPS given our know-nothing rubber-stamp county legislature) had solid waste management remained a function of a county agency or the local municipalities where elected representatives have a say (rather than being turned over to "An Authority"), someone would have realized that we were pricing ourselves out of the jobs market and started a conversation to put an end to this nonsense. But that never happened.

So we have nice new facilities and nicely paid government officials to run them.

Aren't you just proud?


Anonymous said...

I am very proud of the efforts made by the OHSWA to help protect the enviroment and make are area cleaner and safer. Are our tipping fees hirher yes, but look at the amount of services that are offered by OHSWA. I have been to other areas and seen how far behind the times they are when it comes to their trash. Not many areas allow all their resendants a place to dump for FREE all their e-waste and other household hazards which would otherwise be disposed of in a non-enviromentally friendly way.

Strikeslip said...

I think its nice that we have these services, but the disparity in tipping fees is outlandish.

Maybe OSHWA should start charging for some of the things it now gives away free.

But better yet, maybe we should do away with OSHWA, let private enterprise come in, and let competition drive the prices down.