Tax-free trash: an update

Tax-free trash: an update

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When we moved to Holbrook last November, I wrote about how I considered the town’s solution to the expensive problem of trash disposal to be quite fair. At the time, homeowners paid what was essentially a consumption tax on the trash. You could throw out as much trash as you needed, as long as it was all contained in special bags that cost $3 each. In addition, recycling was included, but you had to separate paper from plastics and put them in paper bags and tie up cardboard with strings. It was kind of a pain.

Then at the end of the year, the town changed the deal. They lowered the price of the bags slightly and instituted a per-household fee because they weren’t raising enough money to pay for the cost of trash disposal. (The town had passed an ordinance a couple of years ago that trash disposal had to pay for itself, not rely on other taxes.) So the bags went down from $3 per bag to $2.10 per bag, but we now have a $240 annual fee. Based on our household’s consumption, that would raise our cost for trash disposal by $150 per year. Not a devastating amount, but I could find other uses for that $12 per month. Still, I wasn’t so motivated that I was actively seeking alternatives.

But the alternative came to me. Last Saturday I found a flyer stuck to our door advertising a local independent trash hauler. They would supply two 96-gallon bins, one for trash and one for recycling. The recycling is single-stream, which means no more sorting and bundling. Everything goes into the bin. They pick up every other week, trash and recycling on different days, and pick-up is not affected by holidays, except when it falls on the actual holiday itself. (This year it’s just July 4 that’s affected.) And the best part? I would pay a little less than I did under the old town-run system before they raised the prices. Plus I get a lot more convenience.

… [P]roving in the process once again that in most areas of society private enterprise can provide a superior product/service at a competitive price over government’s efforts.

Of course, I called on Tuesday and signed up right away, proving in the process once again that in most areas of society private enterprise can provide a superior product/service at a competitive price over government’s efforts, which usually have little incentive for cost-cutting and inefficiency. After all, when government needs more money it just raises taxes. Except in this case, there is an escape hatch for the taxpayers.

I do recognize that the reason they can’t cover costs is that people like me opt out of the system, thus placing the structural costs upon fewer shoulders. But what they don’t recognize is that they provide no incentive to keep us from leaving the system. They provide an inferior service at a higher cost because they make me subsidize a bunch of people who get abatements as well as the inefficiencies inherent in any government bureaucracy.

The best part is that the town just signed an agreement with a company that wants to set up a regional trash transfer station with a rail-link in town and part of the agreement is free trash and recycling pickup for all residents, plus a huge annual payment-in-lieu-of-taxes to the town’s coffers. So if all goes well, in 2 years, I switch to the no-cost-to-me service and save the $300 I’m spending on private trash disposal. Until then, I’m looking forward to a good relationship with the private company and not having to worry about special trash bags and sorting my recycling.

Photo credit: Flickr user feministjulie via a Creative Commons license.

Written by
Domenico Bettinelli

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