Monday, January 12, 2009

Mandatory Recycling is a Violation of the Separation of Church and State

Wow. It turns out that you can't make money by renaming "garbage" and calling it a "resource."

Who would have thought that? Other than anyone with an IQ over 80, and even one freshman econ course, I mean.

(A nod to ML, who knows garbage when he sees it)


Norman said...

In a competitive environment, I would of course agree that the inability for them to sell at profitable prices means fewer resources are wasted by throwing the paper, plastic, glass, etc. away.

However, given the possibility of negative externalities from land fills, combined with the fact that trash services are publicly provided in many (if not most) areas, can we really be so dismissive of recycling vs. the dump? Is this really a slam-dunk, "negative profit = negative social welfare" situation?

It seems to me that careful thinking is called for in the recycling debate.

Mungowitz said...

The state of Western Australia is as large as the US west of the Mississippi, minus Alaska and Texas (still, pretty big).

It has a population density of 0.65 people per square mile. All of the few people who do live there are in a 30 mile band near the coast, and even then most of THOSE live in Perth and its suburbs.

W.A. is dry, and geologically stable.

The cost of landfill "space" in W.A., where the article referenced here is directed, is effectively zero.

Please do some careful thinking about that. Any OTHER method of disposal, any method that costs more than zero, is a waste of resources.

Outside of the New York, Boston, and San Francisco, exactly the same thing is true of landfills in the U.S. We have PLENTY of space. PLENTY.

br said...

It's hard to believe some big NYC hedge fund hasn't jumped on the opportunity to buy up all these 'valuable assets' while they're so cheap. HaHaaaaa! It would certainly make for a great Madoff style scheme - "What do you mean you invested my life savings in garbage?"

I couldn't tell from the article whether the reduction in demand for precycled garbage is from a reduction in demand of end user goods, or just the result of alternatives becoming cheaper (eg. the reduction in commodities prices has made precycled garbage uncompetitive).