"Lawmakers Fatal Conceit on Recycling Should Be Trashed" - Granite Grok

“Lawmakers Fatal Conceit on Recycling Should Be Trashed”

My hamlet has just decided to force mandatory recycling on everyone in town (and they didn’t have to. They could have just said that IF you are going to recycle, here’s where what stuff goes where.

This column from CEI talks about the fact that local planners and politicians cannot possibly know all that’s necessary about setting trash policies. What F.A. Hayek called Fatal Conceit; they think they know more about a marketplace than those actually in that marketplace. Here’s a small snippet(emphasis mine):

None of these activities will solve anything, because this “crisis,” like others, is created by government intrusion in the garbage marketplace, which has been going on for a long time. For decades, the federal government encouraged states and local governments to develop 5- to 30-year plans for solid waste management that would have made Soviet economic planners proud. These state and local waste management plans attempt to estimate how much waste a city might produce over decades as well as what kind of wastes (paper, plastic, glass, etc.) and the percentages of each. Then officials make decisions on how much they will recycle, landfill, or burn in a waste-to-energy plant.

Like Soviet economic planning, these plans fail because public officials simply don’t have enough information about future waste streams, nor can they envision future disposal technologies. They eventually make poor decisions, invest in the wrong technologies, and choose inefficient disposal options.

And we taxpayers get stuck with the bill. Already, my town will LOSE almost $7M over 10 years by building a “recycling center” around a $99,000 estimated revenue stream from recyclables (and spending $650K to just over $812K in supporting that “revenue”. And yes, being the Vice-Chair of the Budget Committee, these are not made up numbers – only extrapolated starting using the Town’s own numbers).  It continues:

As a result, localities often expend precious tax dollars to either force or subsidize various players into the market—from consumers to haulers to recycling companies—to conform to the plan rather than pay attention to market realities. Recycling is pushed because it’s politically popular, despite the fact that ill-conceived recycling programs are often expensive and unworkable. They force homeowners to sort and clean recyclables, and then the city sends out special trucks to pick them up—even when there’s no market for a large percentage of them. Ultimately, many recyclables are then landfilled anyway.

And that last bit is uppermost in my mind as I keep asking for the “biz plan” from the Town Administrator to verify that a “market place” actually exists.  I’ve also asked the Selectmen if THEY instructed him to create and turn over such a “plan”.  Thus far, I’ve seen nothing.

In addition, some portions of recyclable waste are also recycled in a way that is more environmentally damaging than landfilling. While market-driven recycling does save resources, government subsidies or forced recycling can use more energy, water, and emit more pollution than other disposal options. And because such programs can become an expensive drain on government coffers, many cities stop them only to restart them a few years later because of political pressure to “recycle.” It’s a vicious cycle.

Politically correct actions because recycling has become a religious ideology.  It cannot be criticized and it cannot be evaluated.  I’ve been told that if not know, recycling “will” rebound at some time in the future – with no data to back that up.  A belief in something that cannot be seen or proven is an ideology that can only be taken on faith.

Government planning has also led local governments to issue bonds for massive waste-to-energy facilities that prove economically unsustainable because haulers chose to simply take waste to much more affordable landfills. So rather than lick their wounds and learn to avoid bad investments, the towns and cities simply passed laws forcing haulers to only do business with the government waste-to-energy facilities, banning competition with private landfills. Had such coercive action been taken in the private marketplace, it would probably constitute racketeering. Fortunately, haulers took their case to the Supreme Court and won because such anti-competitive behavior proved an unconstitutional violation of free commerce between the states.

Well, my town didn’t do waste-to-energy but $1.3M in bonds for a recycling plant operating at $99K in revenues is unsustainable in a hamlet of 7,300 people.

I’m hoping that the powers that be will actually read the entire article.  Unfortunately, the dude that OUGHT to be reading it and then having an epiphany, probably won’t.

Fatal Conceit and Pride.