Garbage Police: Red-Tagged Recyclables
|By Wyatt Hull|
|Thursday, 19 April 2007 10:15|
In America the garbage bins of domestic life are being inspected to assess what residents are throwing away and to fine those breaking recycling rules. Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) monitoring and spy cameras are being installed at household rubbish dumps in Great Britain to monitor what residents are throwing away and to penalize those breaking the rules.
Just as the garbage can is an unavoidable practicality of daily life, so too has recycling become a regular event in contemporary living. Forms of recycling can often bring value and even joy to life, whether it be junkyard-diverting hobby projects like my recently adopted road bike from a neighbor (1), handing down cherished old toys to a new family, antique collecting, or selling "junk" in a yard sale. In Santa Cruz, local art students are accepting publicly-funding commissions to convert landfill junk into "art." (2, Good Times, 5/4/06)
But under Santa Cruz County recycling ordinances enacted at the start of 2007, Waste Management employees must now enforce new limitations on local waste bin and recycling collection, leading many to question the scope and practicality of these new measures.
Noel Smith for the Aptos Times reports:
Back on June 21, 2005 the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors adopted changes to County Ordinance 7.20 that created new recycling requirements for County residents and businesses, and that included banning the disposal of recyclable materials in the County’s Buena Vista Landfill.
More recently, the County and Waste Management have stepped up the monitoring, advertising the red tagging policy that results from garbage collectors inspections of personal waste for banned items. Americans today enjoy the many benefits of reducing and reusing without the red tape of waste management employees enlisted to police the garbage bins of domestic life. These new recycling codes are a veiled pretext via “environmental justice” to extend the police state into our homes and domestic lives.
And Reports from Great Britain point to Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) monitoring systems and security cams designed for garbage and recycling surveillance:
Spy cameras are being installed at household rubbish dumps to check what residents are throwing away and to fine those breaking recycling rules. [...] The sophisticated CCTV systems are capable of reading and storing car number plates to identify who is using the dump, how often, and what they are disposing of.
Bottom line: as once free societies slide further underneath Big Brother, waste management policies are proselytizing every citizen into potential "enviro-criminals."
What these articles do not touch on is that recycling may not be the magic, nor inherently "sustainable" solution as advertised to the public (image). While reducing waste may auspiciously solve the practical issue of purchasing and managing the need for additional landfill sites, it neglects the broader implications and resources needed to effectively institute a 100% diversion program.
Just like reconditioning my newly adopted bicycle, the recycling of consumer waste (i.e. aluminum cans, office paper, etc.) requires physical action, energy, and additional natural resources. For individuals frustrated and confused by the threat of new sanctions and "red-tag reprimands," the extra water, time, and energy required to recycle materials is an unmeasured cost that should be studied, but is not. Jim Fedako for the Mises Institute has more on the questionable economics behind recycling. (6)
In the eyes of the large corporations that essentially partner with local governments to provide sanitation services, recycling and garbage hauling is big business. In June of 2006 the City of Sunnyvale awarded a 7-year contract to GreenTeam/Zanker for management of their garbage sorting facility, effectively doubling the pay of its employees. (7, Mercury News, 6/22/06) Three months later, GreenWaste Recovery beat out the nation's largest residential trash service provider Waste Management by landing Santa Cruz County's "unincorporated" contract with promises for 75% garbage reduction by 2010 and 100% diversion soon thereafter. (8) Reducing landfill input to zero does not mean a virtual elimination of garbage refuse. While it may reduce it to a minimal level at a particular cost of time and resources - transfer stations like the Sunnyvale facility and newly proposed Santa Cruz "Zero Waste EcoPark" imply transit to most likely an out of state landfill - a costly move to "preserve" the green belt of Santa Cruz with blatant disregard for the environment elsewhere or the additional fuel needed to move our residual waste out of sight and out of mind. (9, Register-Pajaronian, 4/18/07)
In an ongoing development reported by Gwen Mickelson for the Sentinel, Waste Management announced its intention to dump its remaining city service contracts to GreenWaste:
What new policies (and tracking devices) should we expect now from GreenWaste Recovery as it replaces Waste Management as the only garbage and recycling service in town?
Garbage Police: Red-Tagged Recyclables by Wyatt Hull