Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Don't look at my garbage, man 

Writing about the now-overexposed Green Police Super Bowl ad, Prof. John Palmer of Western Ontario observes:
The ad hit pretty close to home. In our community, we are now required to use clear garbage bags so the garbage collectors can examine our garbage to make sure we are recycling instead of just dumping recyclables into the garbage. (But let me add that I have not heard of a single instance where a curbside garbage collector has actually looked at a garbage bag and rejected it because it contained recyclables. There's a pretty serious principal-agent problem here since the garbage collectors are competitive profit-oriented private businesses who have an incentive to keep us happy and collect whatever we put out.)
Why would governments not understand this incentive incompatibility? John notes that his local government has already given up the ability to inspect "personal garbage" (let your mind wander, I can wait. ... OK) and (this is the best part) people have cut so much back on putting out garbage that the contractor is losing money.

Here in St. Cloud, we pay $2/bag at local grocery stores for bags picked up by the city. The price of the bags has not changed since introducing the bags about 15 years ago. They are opaque. They're stamped City of St. Cloud and are stamped with an instruction not to place more than 25 pounds in the bag. Want those bags lighter? I think John has a plan for us.

(The city sells clear yard waste bags for $1/bag. Those ARE inspected.)

I should note that I posted that I liked the ad on Twitter, and I got many comments about its creepiness. I just thought it was funny.

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