Thursday, November 29, 2007

From "Show Me Daily" - Incentives, Recycling, and Trash

The following article appears in "Show Me Daily" available online at:

The Kansas City area is addressing the way it handles waste, just as St. Louis County has been doing. Here is an excellent commentary on the changes in St. Louis County, written recently by a member of our board of scholars, Michael Pakko. I agree with much of Michael's argument, although I think the fact that the St. Louis County plan would clearly improve the quality of the local roads in unincorporated areas — which are paid for by everyone in St. Louis County, rather than just the unincorporated residents — is a strong argument
in favor of the plan, and deserves careful consideration.

The Kansas City area is considering many options — some good, some bad. I like this one a lot:
Even before the solid waste plan is done, the city is arranging to have Missouri Organic Recycling, a Kansas City firm, start taking food waste from the City Market by the end of the year. Food scraps will go to the firm’s composting facility south of Liberty and then will be sold to large landscapers and homeowners.

I also like the idea of paying according to the amount of trash you generate. I don't see why an elderly person living alone should pay as much for trash collection as a family of six. From the article:

Johnson County [Kan.] residents may begin to see a pay-as-you-throw trash rate that provides an incentive to recycle.

However, some bureaucrats still don't understand basic rules of incentives (emphasis added):
“There’s an unfortunate attitude from some residents that they shouldn’t have to pay for recycling,” said Betsy Betros, Johnson County’s director of pollution control. “But everybody doing their part will really make a difference.”

If you want people to recycle, which most of us do, then just charge for trash by the pound — but make recycled trash free, or at least heavily subsized (as the article indicates it may be). Don't couch your argument for higher taxes or fees in some sort of "Let's all pull together" garbage (pun intended).

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