ED Kain defends the notion that, if a municipality wants it, they should be allowed to have multiple trash collectors:

It may be a small issue – so long as your trash is collected, it doesn’t really matter that much who picks it up – but the Tea Partiers are right this time: having choice is a good thing, even for trash collection. If the government came in and said “You can only buy Dell computers from now on” people would be unhappy. We want to be able to choose what kind of computer we buy – and not just because maybe we prefer Apple, but because we know that competition keeps innovation up and prices down.

Now, in trash collection you probably won’t see too much innovation, but competition will keep prices down and quality of service high. If you don’t like the people picking up your trash, or the containers they provide, or the driver is rude, or whatever – you can switch.

I agree on all counts. I would imagine it’s the case as often as not that it makes more sense to have a single collector. But while monopolies can have their virtues for some things, they can also create drawbacks.

In addition to the scenarios that ED describes, I can also pretty easily imagine scenarios where you might simply want things done a different way than a monopolistic trash-collecting agency would prefer to do them. For instance, you may want a larger bin collected once every other week rather than a smaller one collected weekly. You may prefer an on-call collection if you only need trash picked up periodically.

Some of these options may be difficult to pull off with everybody making the profit they need, or it could lead to price escalation if the local monopoly is able to keep prices low because of the monopoly. These are issues for local areas to fight out amongst themselves. To be fair, this was a local issue decided locally. But it’s natural and not-crazy for the people to object to policies that they dislike. Calling it “socialism” extends the word beyond any useful meaning, but it’s not hard to be sympathetic to people that want things a certain way and the powers at be decide they should be another.

In Callie, where I live, I doubt it makes any sort of sense to have anything but the standard one-collector model. But when I was living in Soundview, a much more urban area, there may have been more room to maneuver. In Soundview, we had small bins collected weekly, which was kind of a pain in the rear because if you ever had anything of any size, you had to go to the dump. In Callie, we have large bins collected weekly and I find that I only put the trash out every other week or so… but the large bin means that if I have something large I can stick it out there, which is nice.

And a thing about trash collection is that, unlike fire service, there is room for experimentation without houses burning down and pets dying. If competition leads to higher prices, you can reverse yourself. If a monopoly become exceedingly indifferent to customer needs, you can privatize.

To me, this doesn’t really need to be an ideological issue at all. The notion that municipal trash collection equals socialism makes socialists out of a lot of us. Questioning the notion that municipal trash collection (either by city workers or a sole city contract) does not mean that you HATE GOVERNMENT. Different models work in different places. Of course, I am more than willing to condemn Obion County for their fire department arrangements that caused that house to burn down, but it’s because quite apparently the system they chose (a) wasn’t working and (b) lead to tragic events that were entirely foreseeable.

-{Note: Yeah, this post is kind of dated. It slipped through the cracks.}-

Category: Statehouse

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3 Responses to Choice & Trash Collection

  1. David Alexander says:

    In contrast, in NYC, you could basically take any garbage can that you wanted and you simply labeled it with recycling stickers if you needed it. We had twice a week collection for garbage and once a week for recycling, but there’s was no law forcing somebody to put out their bins for collection so some of your argument comes across as rather weird and quaint to me.

    Now, out here in the Town of Hempstead, we have twice a week collection with whatever garbage bin one wants, but the recyling bins are small little green bins. Since our recycling and garbage days are different, if the bin overflows, you simply put the excess in a bag or on the floor next to the bin for pick up. If something is oversized, you simply call ahead and schedule a pick up so the crews are advised.

    FWIW, other than the desire to combine the small and awkward garbage districts into one unit, nobody seems to advocate for privatization of this service around here. It’s paid via property taxes around here, so nobody tends to notice given that it’s a relatively small portion of the tax bill. In fact, there’s been a desire to take over the local private water company and turn into a independent public water authority as the private water supplier has higher rates when compared to the publically run system on the rest of the island.

  2. Mike Hunt says:

    I don’t get ED’s point.

    That is why you elect a mayor and council, so they can hire garbagemen, or contract out for the service. If you don’t like it, then take your garbage to the dump yourself, or hire your own service, and vote for someone else in November.

  3. trumwill says:

    Well, you can not like it and register your protest in addition to voting against them.

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