Brent Council and ‘compulsory’ recycling

September 1st, 2010

Old Holborn has an interesting post about rubbish collection:

When I purchase something with money I have earned, I was under the impression that it belonged to me, to do with as I wished. It is my “property”.

Apparently Brent Council do not agree. With recycling now being big business, the London Council has decided if you don’t want it anymore, it belongs to them and failure to hand over valuable aluminium, glass and paper will see you the recipient of a 1000 fine. No, really.

Old Holborn then goes on to repeat the sanctions the council will use for those who refuse to recycle their garbage, which include surveillance, hand delivered letters, visits from ‘officials’ and ultimately a fine of 1000.

The answer to all of this is simple, and Old Holborn’s impression is completely correct.

The things you buy really do belong to you; that means the packaging that they were delivered in and all the goods you do not consume that become your waste.

When you throw your waste away, you should contract with a private garbage collector to remove it.

You then do not have to deal with eco loon control freak socialist councils and their absolute nonsense. I say its absolute nonsense because it is:

RUBBISH: In Palo Alto, California, citizens are ordered to separate their trash into seven neatly packaged piles: newspapers, tin cans (flattened with labels removed), aluminum cans (flattened), glass bottles (with labels removed), plastic soda pop bottles, lawn sweepings, and regular rubbish. And to pay high taxes to have it all taken away.

In Mountain Park, Georgia, a suburb of Atlanta, the government has just ordered the same recycling program, increased taxes 53% to pay for it, and enacted fines of up to $1,000, and jail terms of up to six months, for scofftrashes.

Because of my aversion to government orders, my distrust of government justifications, and my dislike of ecomania, I have always mixed all my trash together. If recycling made sense economically and not as a sacrament of Gaia worship we would be paid to do it.

For the same reason, I love to use plastic fast- food containers and non-returnable bottles. The whole recycling commotion, like the broader environmental movement, has always impressed me as malarkey. But I was glad to get some scientific support for my position.

Professor William L. Rathje, an urban archaeologist at the University of Arizona and head of its Garbage Project, has been studying rubbish for almost 20 years, and what hes discovered contradicts almost everything were told.

When seen in perspective, our garbage problems are no worse than they have always been. The only difference is that today we have safe methods to deal with them, if the environmentalists will let us.

The environmentalists warn of a country covered by garbage because the average American generates 8 lbs. a day. In fact, we create less than 3 lbs. each, which is a good deal less than people in Mexico City today or American 100 years ago. Gone, for example, are the 1,200 lbs. of coal ash each American home used to generate, and our modern packaged foods mean less rubbish, not more.

But most landfills will be full in ten years or less, were told, and thats true. But most landfills are designed to last ten years. The problem is not that they are filling up, but that were not allowed to create new ones, thanks to the environmental movement. Texas, for example, handed out 250 landfill permits a year in the mid-1970s, but fewer than 50 in 1988.

The environmentalists claim that disposable diapers and fast-food containers are the worst problems. To me, this has always revealed the anti-family and pro-elite biases common to all left-wing movements. But the left, as usual, has the facts wrong as well.

In two years of digging in seven landfills all across America, in which they sorted and weighed every item in 16,000 lbs. of garbage, Rathje discovered that fast-food containers take up less than 1/10th of one percent of the space; less than 1 % was disposable diapers. All plastics totalled less than 5%. The real culprit is paper especially telephone books and newspapers. And there is little biodegradation. He found 1952 newspapers still fresh and readable.

Rather than biodegrade, most garbage mummifies. And this may be a blessing. If newspapers, for example, degraded rapidly, tons of ink would leach into the groundwater. And we should be glad that plastic doesnt biodegrade. Being inert, it doesnt introduce toxic chemicals into the environment.

Were told we have a moral obligation to recycle, and most of us say we do so, but empirical studies show it isnt so. In surveys, 78% of the respondents say they separate their garbage, but only 26% said they thought their neighbors separate theirs. To test that, for seven years the Garbage Project examined 9,000 loads of refuse in Tucson, Arizona, from a variety of neighborhoods. The results: most people do what they say their neighbors do they dont separate. No matter how high or low the income, or how liberal the neighborhood, or how much the respondents said they cared about the environment, only 26% actually separated their trash. The only reliable predictor of when people separate and when they dont is exactly the one an economist would predict: the price paid for the trash. When the prices of old newspaper rose, people carefully separated their newspapers. When the price of newspapers fell, people threw them out with the other garbage.

Were all told to save our newspapers for recycling, and the idea seems to make sense. Old newspapers can be made into boxes, wallboard, and insulation, but the market is flooded with newsprint thanks to government programs. In New Jersey, for example, the price of used newspapers has plummeted from $40 a ton to minus $25 a ton. Trash entrepreneurs used to buy old newspaper. Now you have to pay someone to take it away.

If it is economically efficient to recycle and we cant know that so long as government is involved trash will have a market price. It is only through a free price system, as Ludwig von Mises demonstrated 70 years ago, that we can know the value of goods and services.


From the priceless Rockwells Anti-Environmentalist Manifesto. And of course, once you have your own garbage collected privately, you can deduct the amount that that council is charging you for their ‘service’ since you do not avail yourself of it. Old Holborn already does this for the services he does not require from his council.

Once again Libertarian principles, specifically the property right you have in things you have voluntarily exchanged for, offer the best solution to a problem as opposed to the inherently immoral solutions put forward by collectivists, coercion the state and its insanity.

But what about the economics of it all? If garbage has a value after it has been collected, then someone will sort it and extract what is valuable. This is what it looks like:

The problem with this system is that it is entirely efficient. If private enterprise sorted garbage like this, the loony left salary addicted control freaks at Brent would not be able to justify going out to people’s homes and threatening them.

Furthermore, have you ever seen a garbage compactor in the kitchen of a UK household:

One of the consequences of people having to pay private contractors to remove their waste is that normally you are charged by volume for what you have removed from your household. If you have less volume of garbage to remove, the cost of removing it is less, so there is a great incentive to squeeze as much trash as you can into the smallest possible space.

That is why in many American kitchens, you find garbage compactors; an under the counter machine that you throw your waste into day after day, that compacts it all into a very small shape that is easy to handle and which dramatically reduces your waste disposal costs and storage hassles.

These compact cubes of refuse greatly increase the efficiency of garbage disposal; trucks can carry more garbage, make fewer rounds, you use less bin liners, put garbage into external bins less often and into fewer bins etc etc.

All of this efficiency is lost thanks to the crazy as a coot collectivist crap of councils like Brent.

Even fast food restaurants use them:

The side effects of the free market in terms of efficiency are always beneficial. Other desirable side effects are that the need for nosey parkers sniffing around in your trash is completely eliminated.

That is why the statists hate private enterprise. Sadly in the UK, people are so inured to the idea that ‘the council’ is in charge of everything, from leisure to garbage collection, that it appears that they cannot imagine even the most simple solution to everyday problems without invoking the state in some way as facilitator.


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