One easy way to get rid of a tire is to toss it over a bridge. In Costa Rica, crocodiles can be seen sunning themselves amid thousands of discarded tires. Not an option here in Seattle where stopping on a bridge long enough to hurl a tire will cause a traffic jam.
I took a load of junk to Seattle’s north end transfer station the other day. An employee was standing at the entrance to brief clientele on Seattle’s new recycling ordinance. Apparently, it is no longer adequate to voluntarily point-sort our trash and laboriously drag multiple containers to the curb every week to protect our environment and lower the cost of waste disposal. Our wise leaders have decided it’s time to take it to another level and make it illegal not to recycle. Why? According to the official site, this ordinance “aims” to save residents and businesses as much as $2 million a year, enforcement “with consequences” beginning January 1, 2006. Contractors will not pick up garbage cans that have “significant” amounts of recyclables.
To put this new regulation into perspective I divided $2 million by Seattle’s present population. Turns out, this ordinance will ostensibly save each person in Seattle about four dollars annually. Four dollars. What we need now is the option to pay four dollars annually for a “garbage pass” to put on our trash can lids. Think of it as protection money to guarantee that your can never gets left behind because “significant” amounts of recyclables were found in it.
Recycling is no longer a voluntary endeavor. Personally, I find this demotivating. Gone is the thrill of self-sacrifice for the good of the planet. This ordinance may very well backfire, not that this bureaucracy would notice. How hard is it to hide recyclables in a trash bag? Will we see a huge spike in the number of trash bags as a result? Will they fix that problem by outlawing trash bags, or mandating transparent ones? Bureaucracies love rules — the more you have, the better off you are. This reminds me of my favorite movie, Brazil. It’s about a future where bureaucracy has taken over the world, where unlicensed appliance repairmen are labeled as terrorists and hunted down by the government.
Ultimately, the effectiveness of this latest curbside recycling rule will rest on the shoulders of the poor guy who collects my garbage. His truck already has a camera mounted on it to monitor his every move. Will he take the time to inspect every can, leaving those in violation unemptied with a tag on top, or will he blow it off just to get his long hard day over with? If he finds it easier to inspect and reject trashcans than to toss them in his truck, we could all be in trouble, or more specifically, his enemies could be. And what is a person left with a full trashcan to do for a week — toss it off a bridge? Details, details.