Twenty[-three] years ago, on March 22, a tugboat named the Break of Dawn sailed out of New York Harbor pulling a barge full of Long Island's finest trash. Piloted by Duffy St. Pierre, the trip was supposed to be a simple shipment of trash to a southern landfill. Instead, Mobro 4000 (the barge's real name) became a modern day Flying Dutchman, wandering from port to port but never allowed to stay and unload.Moral fervor toward Gaia, the mythical Greek goddess of the Earth, has begun to cool as the stark reality of the economic destruction wrought by the heretofore unquestioned "preserve-the-planet" dogma which had taken control of our lives ... thanks to devote fools willing to give up individual freedoms and liberty to fascist politicians and rent-seeking "green" contractors.
The garbage barge wasn't just redolent with remarkable names. The misbegotten cruise quickly became a media sensation. The economy was hot, and news was slow. Garbage, which is just the effluence of our affluence, was the perfect target. Greenpeace, Phil Donahue and Johnny Carson all used the barge as fodder. Six months after it sailed, the garbage barge's trash was burned in a Brooklyn incinerator, and the ashes buried back in Long Island. The media didn't attend the funeral.
After the circus was over, the barge had a profound impact on solid waste and recycling. Within three years, most states passed laws requiring some kind of municipal recycling. The United States went from about 600 cities with curbside recycling programs to almost 10,000.
Today, the very liberal Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette attempted to rally the Church of Gaia members.
Most people will say recycling is a good thing.As might be expected, there was no presentation of the other side of the story. There was coverage, however, of the cost of trash pickup (presently $11.24 per month) and of the overwhelming wish of surveyed citizens that the cost be kept as low as possible. The newspaper somehow overlooked the fact that the city was collecting the garbage fee and was keeping part of it as an undeclared tax to defer government costs. There was no treatment of the possibility of abandoning the government-controlled program altogether, thus allowing trash haulers to contract with city residents directly. There was also no mention of cozy relationships between city politicians and trash contractors despite headline news in 2009.
In fact, 85 percent of city residents who participated in an online non-scientific city survey said they recycle, and 77 percent of those respondents called the city’s recycling program good or excellent.
But the statistics show a far different story. The amount of materials that city residents recycle is small, and since 2000, the percentage of the city’s total waste stream that goes to recycling has slowly eroded.
Last year, Fort Wayne residents recycled 8.5 percent of the 107,307 tons of total waste they created. The recycling portion was 11 percent in 2000.
This drop in participation has happened during a decade when “being green” took on a new meaning across America and environmentalism and protecting the planet have often been at the center of national debates.
America will solve the problem of solid waste disposal when it begins to think outside the bureaucratic box that is our present experiment in European Socialism. It is time to "dance with one who brung you" by returning wholeheartedly to free enterprise concepts. The first thing we have to do get rid of the central planners. This is not the Soviet Union and we should not trust economics to government bureaucrats. Reason Magazine writes about some of the recycling ideas of the late Jane Jacobs, the world's best-known urbanologist.
Flash back three decades. In 1969, urbanologist Jane Jacobs suggested that recycling might become a solution to pollution. Cities, she wrote, are potential junk mines, waiting for entrepreneurs to extract useful material from household trash, industrial waste, even smokestacks. She devoted several pages of her classic The Economy of Cities to this idea, describing several ways one might transform waste into wealth. The cities of the future, she wrote, may "become huge, rich and diverse mines of raw materials. These mines will differ from any now to be found because they will become richer the more and the longer they are exploited."I am reminded of President Eisenhower's final speech to the American people in 1961 and his concern was a corporatist union between the US Military Services and some very large private industrial contractors. In his Military-Industrial Complex speech, Ike said:
One of her most important insights, enunciated in The Economy of Cities, is the way new work grows out of old: not by plan, as too many social engineers have assumed, and not by ever-finer division of labor, ... but by serendipity. First, work is divided into smaller tasks ... and then someone discovers that one of those smaller processes has other uses. The old enterprise then reinvents itself, or else someone breaks away from it to start a new operation. In this way, a sand mining company (3M) began to develop new forms of adhesive tape; a dress maker (Ida Rosenthal) invented, and turned to manufacturing, the brassiere; and--not an example of innovation, but an illustration of the same principle--many Japanese bicycle repair shops gradually moved into bicycle manufacturing.
Jacobs expected recycling to develop this way. To the extent that it's a viable concern, it has. (Think of the scrap industry, or of the savings glass manufacturers have realized from using recycled content.)
Thankfully, most of us have little direct contact with raw industrial waste. When we think of recycling, we think of our domestic trash--and, perhaps, of a local compulsory recycling law. ... The value of the activity takes a back seat to its symbolism; planners forget that the recycling process also uses energy and sometimes is more wasteful than simply throwing things away. So separating trash becomes a sort of religious ritual, a tiresome procedure that citizens are put through (or environmental aesthetes put themselves through) to prove their fealty to Mother Earth, whether or not they're doing her any favors.
Contrast that with another passage from The Economy of Cities, describing a hapless household trying to recycle its junk: "Imagine that one serviceman calls who is interested only in old metal, another who is interested in waste paper, another in garbage, another in discarded wool furniture, another in used-up plastics, another who wants old books (but only if their bindings have gilt letters; another serviceman is interested in the others), and so on. A family would be driven crazy by this traffic, let alone by the necessity of separating and storing for various intervals the various wastes."
Jacobs did not then propose that the family be forced to separate its trash. Indeed, she implied that this would defeat the purpose of the enterprise. "The aim must be to get all the wastes possible into the system--not only those that are already valuable at a given stage of development, but also those that are only beginning to become useful and those that are not yet useful but may become so," she writes. "A type of work that does not now exist is thus necessary: services that collect all wastes, not for shunting into incinerators or gulches, but for distributing to various primary specialists from whom the materials will go to converters or reusers."
An interesting idea. But trying it means allowing the new work to grow from the old work. That cannot happen if garbage collection is socialized, or if the government contracts with a single private company to do the job. It can happen if households hire people to haul away their refuse. At first, the private haulers might give the garbage to landfills; as opportunities to sell different sorts of trash develop, they'd diversify, much as homeless people collect cans for profit in places with deposit law. Except, of course, that the trash collectors would be responding to an actual market incentive, not one jerry-rigged by the state.
If recycling technology advances far enough, the haulers may find themselves paying for the garbage they collect, rather than getting paid to collect it. But even when opportunities to sell trash don't arise, there can still be a solid incentive to recycle: As landfill space grows scarce, limited by geography or by popular opposition, it will grow more expensive to dispose of trash. In some communities, this has already happened. In others, it hasn't, and that's fine; it just means recycling isn't necessary. There's nothing wrong with that. We're talking about a means of waste disposal, not a moral imperative.
Today, the solitary inventor, tinkering in his shop, has been overshadowed by task forces of scientists in laboratories and testing fields. In the same fashion, the free university, historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery, has experienced a revolution in the conduct of research. Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity. For every old blackboard there are now hundreds of new electronic computers.So we do not need or want recycling operations run by bureaucrats, we must have more red-blooded American inventors and entrepreneurs.
The prospect of domination of the nation's scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present
* and is gravely to be regarded.