Concord Monitor’s David Brooks Ga-Ga over Gilford’s Edifice to Economic Illiteracy - Forgets Most Important Question - Granite Grok

Concord Monitor’s David Brooks Ga-Ga over Gilford’s Edifice to Economic Illiteracy – Forgets Most Important Question

Gilford Solid Waste Center

I’ve held onto this since Thanksgiving as it just was an example of ideological favoritism of how to spend other peoples’ money to satisfy one’s own ideological stupidity.

The two people involved in this – David Brooks and Gilford’s Town Administrator Scott Dunn who NEVER gave proof of the economic viability of building a separate recycling center from Laconia’s Transfer Station. He just waved his hands and spouted smoke about how these recycling efforts would pay for that new Gilford Recycling Center.

This was during the time when China shut off taking such materials and no one else was willing to pay for other peoples’ waste.

But here comes Brooks (aka “Granite Geek”) trying to cover Dunn with glory over the enormous waste of property taxes – more on that later.

Reformatted and emphasis mine:

Gilford shows how to rebuilding recycling programs after industry collapse

As the recycling industry struggles to recover from the one-two punch of China upending global markets followed by the continuing complication of the pandemic, one town is seeing some success by reinventing its whole approach, starting with communication.

Unfortunately, Brooks never defines what “some success” actually means in this context. When you don’t do that, then Government almost always decides to declare success (and generally in ways that the Private Sector would reject totally out of hand).  So I have no idea what that “success” metric is – and no one else does, either. I’m not sure he does, to be blunt and he never takes a crack at it in his piece.

And as nice a person as Gilford Public Works Director Meghan Theriault is (and doing a better job on maintaining the roads, for sure, than a lot of her predecessors have), this to me is an exercise of putting lipstick on a pig: we have to EDUCATE people.

Now, I don’t know her politics but I keep hearing that from the far Left – we have to EDUCATE people as to why this is right to do, which generally comes down to “doing what we want you to”. Every time the Left fails, they blame it on a lack of education and a result of their poor messaging:

“Where your effort needs to be is educating your community. You have to educate people if you want recycling to succeed,” said Meghan Theriault, Public Works director in Gilford, which just won a statewide industry award for “engaging residents.” A case in point, she said: Styrofoam. That ubiquitous packing material can’t be recycled even though it carries the misleading three-arrows-in-a-triangle symbol. The symbol doesn’t mean an item can be recycled; it only indicates what the item is made of.  Letting residents know about the problem with Styrofoam, so they won’t toss it in the recycling bin, can save the town money because it means less of its recycling stream will be rejected by buyers. “We’re trying to promote recycling in a positive way,” said Theriault.

And this next part is a lot of “lightness” on the part whose name cannot be mentioned:

Gilford, a town of 7,300, has completely revamped its recycling program in the last two years. Residents formerly used Laconia’s transfer station for their trash but Gilford has built its own facility. Just as importantly, it switched from single-stream, in which all potentially recyclable materials are jumbled together, to requiring that residents separate out different items.

Like the cost of the facility? The cost of separation? The revenue from the materials sent forward?  NEVER got a straight answer from Dunn other than “the market will come back”. All based on Hope which any adult knows that isn’t a strategy but a missive to Heaven to listen to their pleas.

This comes as the world’s recycling industry is still adjusting to China’s decision three years ago to stop taking huge amounts of material, regardless of quality. The price of most recycled materials collapsed when that happened, turning a profitable operation into a big loss for many towns and cities. “A lot of communities just stopped. It was cheaper to just throw it away as trash,” Theriault said.

And being a blogger with lots of reading time, I made that point over and over and over again that this whole idea needed to be trashed – no one listened.

Indeed. I’ll have to try to find it but I did a “personal study” on what my individual cost would be.  I believe that $450 of mine went to the cost of building the place. Adding up the weekly costs of time, space, schlepping it all to the SDEEI and then me back home and then annualizing it simply to have someone else feel good about spending other peoples’ money for something that is a complete waste of money, turned out to be just over $1,000 a year.

Versus just having the Private Sector trash guys arrive every Thursday morning and removing it – at a savings of about 60% (that’s a cost of just over $400, Scott).

And Brooks also wants you to believe that Government can really make companies pick up costs as the fevered fantasists amongst them can overrule basic Economic Law:

Among the most unusual attempts to restart the industry is occurring in Maine, which has passed a statewide law that will make producers and distributors of products pay for the cost of trashing or recycling the packaging, rather than leaving it entirely up to taxpayers or volunteers. This could provide an incentive for companies to cut back on packaging, helping reduce the problem rather than just try to deal with it after the fact.

So, Brooks just joined the ranks of the Economically Illiterate – or hiding the financial sausage behind this scam. Hey, Dave – do you REALLY BELIEVE that companies are actually going to pay that tax?  Or are they just going to shrug their shoulders, admit that Government just laid yet another involuntary cost of doing business on them – and charge customers appropriately?

At that point, Dave, are you willing to “recycle” your words and whatcha pushin’ onto those that don’t know enough to make those next couple of steps to realize you’re covering for Government inanity? All you are doing is going along with the con – the only “incentive” that’s being presented is a large Green Light to accountants to go back to their books to move that cost into a revenue stream. Not to recyclers, mind you, but back to their customers.

A common response by communities has been ending single-stream collection, as Gilford has done. This is ironic because the widespread adoption of single-stream collection more than a decade ago was seen as the best way to increase recycling by making it easier for people to participateGetting residents to separate their recycling lets the town bundle items like aluminum cans, some plastics and paper, so they can take advantage of fluctuations in the market when the time comes to sell it or pay to dispose of it, Theriault said.

Right – outsource more of your costs for less revenues.

And there’s part of the problem – compounding what I’ve said for years (that the Scott Dunn Edifice to Economic Illiteracy for the rubes that never took micro- or macro Economic class) that it will NEVER turn a profit.  But you can force the Gilford residents to make it a tad better by making THEM do all the work upfront. Again, my personal costs above.

For example, properly sorted and baled mixed paper went from being sold for $20 a ton in February to $105 a ton in September, while clean, baled cardboard rose from $80 to $190 a ton. Gilford has collected 173,000 pounds of mixed paper through October, roughly on par with past years, but its cardboard collection has soared, presumably a result of more items being bought online. Last year through October Gilford had collected 203,00 pounds of cardboard; this year it has collected 366,000 pounds, an increase of some 80%.

Many prices for recycled material have rebounded from low points earlier in the pandemic. The most profitable at the moment is No. 2 plastic, the kind used in milk jugs, which has gone up 60% in a year to more than $1,200 per ton, according to the Northeast Resource Recovery Association, more even than aluminum cans.

So, what was the revenue, Dave?  Shouldn’t that have been a vital piece of information to ask?  Profit / Loss?  Or because the Altar of Recycling is the Dump, nasty secular items like filthy lucre shouldn’t be investigated in detail.

A part of Gilford’s outreach involves telling residents this. “We let people know. They think, OK, it’s a pain that I have to separate my stuff but we just made a bunch of money for the town,” Theriault said.

Yeah, no details, Mr. Brooks!

Gilford has also created storage areas where it can hold tons of material until it has a full tractor-trailer load, which reduces per-ton shipping costs.

And how much did THOSE cost, Scott Dunn?

Gilford beat out 10 other communities for first place in the “engaging residents” best practices contest held by New Hampshire The Beautiful, a non-profit created by state beverage distributors and grocers. Theriault ticked off a number of things the town has done, from lots of small colorful signs with specific advice to an active Facebook group, to future plans for “trash on the lawn day” at the middle school. “The idea is to see how much actually can be recycled,” said Theriault.

Now, for full disclosure, I have used the SDEEI exactly twice in the years it’s been open – the first time to see how my money was spent and the second to get rid of an above ground (but small) pool that I didn’t want but TMEW said “this will be a good idea as we got it for free!”. Unspoken was the cost of bringing it home, cluttering up the garage, and then hauling to the SDEEI to be trashed.

So, here’s my answer to the unanswered questions: expect an RSA 91:A as I am expecting losses in the 1/2 million dollar ranges, at least, for these past two years. I won’t be surprised if it is more. That’s not “some success“.

(David Brooks can be reached at (603) 369-3313 or or on Twitter

(H/T: Concord Monitor)