Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Just heard a great news story on NPR's MarketPlace radio show. It was about the Freak-o-nomic's research on the idea of pay-as-you-throw trash disposal policies that have been set up through various cities across the country. The neat part about the article was the discussion on people's reactions to the policy (some positive, some not..) and how this policy lies at the crossroads of public/environmental policy, and the psychology of consumption and disposability in the US. The policy basically charges the user with a rate per unit of trash to be removed, as opposed to the standard flat-rate formula popular across the US. The rationale is, if use dispose of more stuff, you pay your fair share to dispose of it. This has had positive impact on municipal trash operations, leading to decreased operating costs and lower demand for ever-expanding landfills. Great, right? Yes, but naturally there is a pervasive opinion of American Privilege that sees this as a tax, not an operating cost, when in fact it's a business.

That's correct. It's a Business. It also has longterm ramifications that affect every human within a certain radius of each and every landfill. Yes, we should pay-as-we-throw, and we don't have a right to throw away as much as we want. You can breathe as much as you want, because that is truly free. However, the matter of waste disposal affects everyone, and the costs attached to it are real, externalized or not. When there are costs, it's not free. We should distance ourselves from the illusion that the disposable society is in any way free of costs or consequences...ttyl

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