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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/11135/three-myths-about-trash/

Three Myths about Trash

December 2, 2009 by

There are three things everybody knows when we talk trash: we’re running out of landfill space, recycling is always great, and no one would recycle if they weren’t forced to. None are true. FULL ARTICLE by Floy Lilley

{ 30 comments }

Hard Rain December 2, 2009 at 7:54 am

I believe this is an excerpt of the address Ms. Lilley gave at the “Economics for High School Students” event last month.

The address can be viewed on YouTube @ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PndeWksuTjg

Some Dude December 2, 2009 at 9:21 am

I guess the following is not a myth:

Some people would dump their trash anywhere if the city didn’t come and pick it up weekly.

fundamentalist December 2, 2009 at 9:30 am

Excellent article! Thanks! I would add that we have had a solution to the trash problem for at least 40 years in what’s called fluidized bed cyclone generators. EPRI, the Electric Power Research Institute has promoted them for decades. They can burn anything, railroad ties and old tires and produce no air pollution. The cyclone separator works like the bagless vacuums in that it spins the exhaust from the burning material and extract all particles. The fluidized bed allows the burning temps to be low, which prevents NO2 formation, and the addition of lime absorbs most of the sulphur.

scott t December 2, 2009 at 10:11 am

the city where i used to live would send out its garbage trucks…while the garbage trucks would collect the trash..they would leak some type of reeking effluent along the streets in the neighborhood. as they stopped, it would puddle up and stink for days and then leave a trail of stinking fluid along the street. it smelled worse than any trash can could.

Shay December 2, 2009 at 10:23 am

I wonder whether these trash myths are like global warming, popular because of the implied need for reducing consumption. So things like the fluidized bed cyclone generator would be frowned on because they would allow us to keep on generating trash and not feeling bad about. Research into ways of dealing with the current volume of trash, rather than forcing people to reduce, would just be having our cake and eating it too. The horror!

Joshua December 2, 2009 at 10:50 am

It’s possible that if garbage collection was free and unregulated, that garbage companies would pay you for the trash considering the revenues they would generate through salvage and energy generation activities.

Joshua December 2, 2009 at 10:53 am

SomeDude: I think “anywhere” better not include someone else’s property. Some people take exception to that sort of thing.

Richie December 2, 2009 at 11:00 am

Some Dude:

“I guess the following is not a myth:

Some people would dump their trash anywhere if the city didn’t come and pick it up weekly.”

Yeah, because only the government can provide that service, since, as any intelligent statist knows, people are not creative enough to provide that service in the private sector.

KP December 2, 2009 at 11:00 am

Great article but sources for the figures would have help.

greg December 2, 2009 at 11:08 am

Our problem is not to recycle or not, it is that we produce to much junk that does not have a resonable product life.

Some Dude December 2, 2009 at 11:21 am

Yeah, because only the government can provide that service, since, as any intelligent statist knows, people are not creative enough to provide that service in the private sector.

Creativity has nothing to do with it. Some people wouldn’t bother trying. It is easier to just dump it. And yes, possibly on someone else’s property (when they aren’t looking).

Morgan Stanford December 2, 2009 at 12:03 pm

Morgan Stanford

Concerning CFL’s and their disposal problems, here’s what I suggest.

When your mandated CFL bulb fails, crush it into pieces and put it in a box and mail it to your favorite congressman.

After all, they forced us to buy unwanted bulbs, so they should be forced to pick up the trash.

Morgan Stanford December 2, 2009 at 12:06 pm

Some Dude,

“And yes, possibly on someone else’s property (when they aren’t looking).”

This is exactly what’s going to happen as an unintended consequence of the anti-trash laws in California and San Francisco.

Instead of getting into the trouble of sorting their trash, they will just dump it in the streets and on public land and the government is going to end up with a very dirty state and dirty cities.

Lookup Naples trash crisis on google to understand what’s awaiting San Francisco.

fundamentalist December 2, 2009 at 12:18 pm

Egypt unwittingly experimented with trash collection recently. The service used to be provided by poor Christian hog farmers who picked up the trash and fed the scraps to their hogs. Then the Egyptian government went insane with the swine flu scare and killed all of the country’s hogs before a single case of swine flu appeared in the country. Now the Christians has no reason to pick up the garbage, so Egyptians are dumping it in the streets and stinking up the town. Also, swine flu has spread rapidly throughout the country in spite of the absence of swine. The stupid bureaucrats can’t figure it out.

Wayne December 2, 2009 at 1:04 pm

@Some Dude

Do you disbelieve there are areas of the country where people pay for private garbage collection? Well there are, and I for one don’t dump my garbage on my neighbors lot, I pay a private company to come once a week to take it away.

You know what? People dumping on private property are breaking the law, and can be prosecuted as such (at least for trespass).

The problem with statists is they thing no one would follow the rules unless the guys with guns forced them to. Funny thing is, people don’t always follow the rules even when the guys with guns are forcing them to! It’d probably be the same people breaking the laws of common sense if the state didn’t have legislation forcing a course of action.

There is a guy who comes into my business’ parking lot and throws a couple bags of what look like household garbage into the dumpster, then leaves. He doesn’t even work in this building! He’d rather steal garbage services than throw his garbage on someone else’s lawn. Seems like he’s ok with the opportunity cost of the extra work vs paying a residential service.

I know you wouldn’t see wide spread garbage issues if people were left to their own devices to hire a company becuase it happens now in suburbs and rural areas. What you would see is a more efficient, private system where competition would drive prices down and services up. Instead we get a poorly designed, inefficient government organ with low customer satisfaction, paid for with our ever increasing tax dollars.

Thanks nanny state but I Can clean up after myself.

JL Bryan December 2, 2009 at 1:23 pm

We have a free market in trash collection where I live. Anyone can start a service. My collector is very cheap, clean & reliable–if they weren’t, I could just switch providers!

Now, if only we could do that with every service…

A.MR December 2, 2009 at 2:50 pm

This video pretty much talks about the three things we “know”. Very funny!

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-1444391672891013193&hl=en#

Richie December 2, 2009 at 8:41 pm

Some Dude:

“Creativity has nothing to do with it. Some people wouldn’t bother trying. It is easier to just dump it. And yes, possibly on someone else’s property (when they aren’t looking).”

Maybe. But as Wayne mentioned, this would violate private property rights. In addition, just “dumping it” requires more work (loading/unloading the rubbish) than paying a private company do pick it up and take it away; thus, very few people would just dump trash any place they desire.

Rob Berriman December 2, 2009 at 9:01 pm

A.MR

Great link to Penn & Teller. Thanks!

Old Mexican December 2, 2009 at 10:31 pm

Re: Some Dude,

Creativity has nothing to do with it. Some people wouldn’t bother trying. It is easier to just dump it. And yes, possibly on someone else’s property (when they aren’t looking).

This is a ridiculous assertion. Dumping your trash on somebody else’s property means carrying your trash to that party’s property, which means expending time and effort.

Where I used to live (Monterrey, Mexico), horse-driven carts (called “Carretoneros”) would come and pick up your trash for a price. They came 2-3 times per week. The county sent their trucks only ONCE per week, sometimes every 10 days. If you did not want to accumulate your trash in your front porch, you simply paid the “Carretonero” to take your trash. That was in MY neighborhood. Other counties actually forbade the “Carretoneros” from picking up the trash, leaving many people with no other recourse but to accumulate trash in their front porch.

So don’t say people are not smart enough to come up with solutions. The impediment is always the State.

scott t December 2, 2009 at 10:36 pm

http://www.weyerhaeuser.com/Sustainability/CurrentIssues/BorealForest

“After producing wood products for more than a century, 91 percent of Canadian land that was originally forested continues to support a growing forest.”
“We hold licenses to roughly 15.2 million acres (6.2 million hectares) of forestland in the Canadian boreal forest, as of Dec. 31, 2008.”

“Our 2008 harvest in the boreal forest was 0.4 percent of the forest area we manage.”

if the above linked info is true….it would seem that the timber resources arent in any delpetion danger on the NA continent. if the wood/pulp recycling is truly less resource intensive than taking new trees from a small portion of forestland the great…but if the tree resources are managed as stated above then resource depletion doesnt seem to be an issue.

scott t December 2, 2009 at 10:48 pm

“In June of this year, Maine adopted the nation’s first law that requires CFL bulb manufacturers to share the costs and responsibility for recycling mercury-containing CFLs through a producer-financed collection and recycling program,….”

is there a significant difference in the Hg in a flourscent tube, tech that has been around since the late 60′s or so, and the compact fl’s?? have the millions of 16″ to 72″ and ge circulons tubes been carefully hauled away for decades? if so, one would think that a flourescent light removal apparatus would already be in place?

Walt D. December 2, 2009 at 11:05 pm
Stephen Paulger December 3, 2009 at 9:16 am

That’s why they say “Reduce. Re-use. Recycle”.

Recycling is the last option on the list.

tfr December 3, 2009 at 1:20 pm

scott t:
I have been asking them same question for a while now. The answer, as far as I know, is “there is no difference”. You used to be able to actually see droplets of Mercury rolling around on the bottom of the big tubes.
However, my local transfer station handles the two as follows: The big 4-foot tubes: toss them into the dumpster and watch them explode. The CFLs: you have to see an attendant, who then handles them like radioactive waste.

GunderDog December 5, 2009 at 9:31 pm

People need to not just believe everything they read because it is on the Mises site. This article completely lacks references or facts to back it up. She may be right, but she seems to simply say what is consistent with her philosophy and not look critically at anything.

For examples:

“it is usually not clear whether secondary manufacturing such as recycling produces less pollution per ton of material processed than primary manufacturing processes.”

then she says:

“Manufacturing paper, glass, and plastic from recycled materials uses appreciably more energy and water, and produces as much or more air pollution, as manufacturing from raw materials does. Resources are not saved and the environment is not protected.”

Can we get a reference, please? I am sure many enviros would claim different and provide some statistics to back it up.

Another example:

“Landfills are no longer a threat to the environment or public health. State-of-the-art landfills, with redundant clay, plastic liners, and leachate collection systems, have now replaced all of our previously unsafe dumps.”

Really? They are all completely safe? No state of the art liners have ever cracked or leaked? Never? And we are sure they never will? Sounds pretty pollyannaish. Please provide a reference from a garbage scientist.

Also, in terms of mercury in CFLs she fails to mention that coal burning electric plants put out lots of mercury. Advocates of CFLs claim that the amount of mercury in the bulb is significantly less that the amount not put out by the energy saved over its use.

I suspect there is truth in this article, but I don’t believe everything I read because the author happens to understand the economics of inflation.

scott t December 5, 2009 at 10:56 pm

“The amount of new growth that occurs each year in forests exceeds by a factor of 20 the amount of wood and paper that is consumed by the world each year.”
i cant say if this is exactly true but weyerhauser says:

http://www.weyerhaeuser.com/Sustainability/CurrentIssues/BorealForest

“After producing wood products for more than a century, 91 percent of Canadian land that was originally forested continues to support a growing forest.”
“We hold licenses to roughly 15.2 million acres (6.2 million hectares) of forestland in the Canadian boreal forest, as of Dec. 31, 2008.”

“Our 2008 harvest in the boreal forest was 0.4 percent of the forest area we manage.”
a harvest that is four thenths of a percent of managed forests seems like they dont use much overall forest land at all.

Bob S December 10, 2009 at 1:02 pm

A better title for this might be: Three Reasons Why Recycling is Garbage.

I certainly enjoyed hearing the other side of the question.

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