Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Council talks garbage over a plate of chicken cordon bleu

A few weeks back I posted on the proposed changes to garbage collection here in London. Acting on a recommendation from city staff, council is planning to impose a four bag limit on curbside pickup. There are obvious problems with implementing such a proposal, for example the unfair disadvantage to large family households, the problem of garbage collectors determining which houses are apartment units and of course, stinking bags of garbage left over from the week before.

Well, council has been talking garbage again. It appears that Londoners will be limited to four 120-litre containers and it's going to be costly no doubt, as council tries to work out the details. Will Londoners have to purchase garbage containers in order to get their garbage hauled away if they have more than four bags, or will the garbage collectors get out the scale and measure the combined weight of the bags? Maybe Joyce Burpee will apply for the position of garbage rights expert:
There should be exemptions for homeowners if city council approves a four-bag limit on Londoners' curbside garbage, city staff say.

But residents should brace for more changes as the city strives to meet the province's deadline to divert 60 per cent of household waste from landfills by 2008, says the chairperson of the environment and transportation committee.

"We're trying to reach that diversion target and if we don't start making progress, then further steps will have to be taken," Coun. Fred Tranquilli said.

In a report to the committee today, staff recommend exemptions at Christmas and the end of the school year when college and university students are on the move.

Further, bulk items, such as discarded furniture, will continue to be picked up.

[..] Other highlights of the proposed plan include:

- Other exemptions will be considered on a case-by-case basis;

- Excess bags will be left at the curb with a non-compliance sticker and, if necessary, a warning letter;

- Additional bags can be taken to the city's three existing drop-off depots at a cost of $1 a bag, or up to 50 kilograms to the landfill at no cost.

- There's no immediate plan to issue additional blue boxes at a cost of about $300,000.

- The list of recyclables won't be expanded at this time, nor will the city implement a so-called green box program for organic material at an estimated cost of $2.5 million to $3.5 million.

- Staff also advised other municipalities with stricter bag limits and user pay systems for garbage promoted more recycling.

[..] Tranquilli said establishing a limit is a "wake-up call" to prepare Londoners for additional changes.

[..] Staff also said it's expected people who have more than four bags will simply store one until the next pickup.
Admittedly, if on average Londoners put out 16 kilograms a week, then a limit of four 27 kilogram containers is not likely to cause much of a hardship for most residents. However, if this is the case, why is council even talking about it in the first place? Are there some city workers who need to 'justify' their pay cheque or perhaps someone's relative needs a job?

Further, unlike other municipalities with bag limits, residents won't be able to purchase garbage tags for extra trash, but will have to haul it to a depot themselves or leave it on the curb, or their neighbour's yard until the next pickup. Readers will also note that while the apparent reason for this change is to encourage recycling, and hence increase revenue for the city, there are no immediate plans to enlarge the recycling program.


Former Londoner said...

Welcome to Vogosphere!

Does London still have a policy of letting weeds grow wild and uncut on city parkland to save money?

A couple of years ago my elderly father complained to the city repeatedly about the noxious weeds growing all over the city Reservoir (south of commissioners road - the park is on the north side)

He then tried to report the noxious weeds to the city who were ready to take action and order the grass cut until they found out it was city land. They did nothing. He went out and cut the adjacent grass himself in order to protect his own lawn.

Bloody Vogons!

Publius said...

Why don't they simply have private companies compete over garbage customers as for every other god damn service, except health care? What is so sacred about government hauling away garbage? It might be argued that politicians have a comparative advantage when it comes to dealing with refuse but I have yet to see David Miller haul trash to the curb. He did defeat Barbara Hall, but she in a way had already taken herself to the curb.

Now I'm not being completely fair, Miller was born poor and worked his way up. He seems to think that government intervention might have made his way up easier. Which is perhaps true of those who work for the state.

I can phone the other end of the world for cents a minute, why can't I have garbage hauled awayed for cents a day? Do the numbers. A garbage hauler - or sanitary engineer or whatever euphemism people use these days - is paid 40,000 a year, which is roughly their actually salary. After all why shouldn't uneducated slobs make more than people with degrees, yes even ones with BAs in Gender Studies?

Now it takes less than a minute to take two or three bags away. Ignore the cost of the machinery, labour is always the biggest component of this kind of work. Assume, adding in travel time and work breaks, that it takes three minutes per house - I'm assuming unionized labour here. In a seven hour day, I'm being generous and adding lunch hour to the mix, 140 houses can be serviced in a day.

Assuming twice a week pick up that's 350 houses a week per garbage hauler, I know they're two but for this example assume one, that's why it takes three minutes.

Now 40,000 divided by 350 houses works out to about 114 dollars a year per house. I'm doing this on paper so I may be a bit off. Now let's be even more generous and assume that equipment and disposal costs (i.e. the dump itself) is three times what the cost of what is pretty inefficient labour. Works out to about 342 dollars a year. Plenty of people spend more than that on lattes a month.

But what about the poor? Ah, yes the poor, the rationalization for every needless expansion of government. Because you see the average person is a complete pyscho and would readily rob his fellow human beings blind if not for the grace of Paul Martin and his cohorts! Saints, or better yet Gods, preserve us.

Those wretched few who cannot afford garbage removal, and whom their neighbours are so indifferent to their own interests to help, can be assisted by a government program - perfect job for a graduate of gender studies - which will subsize removal.

It's all very simple people. You just gotta understand that people can run their lives better than some politico in City Hall. It's a brave thought I know, but heck, if we can let the plebs vote why not arrange for taking out the trash in other ways?

Lisa said...

Former Londoner: You are wise to have left. As for the noxious weeds, they have all moved indoors and now reside within the walls of city hall.

Publius: nicely put!

basil said...

"Assuming twice a week pick up" Ha, ha, ha!!! This is London - we get one pick up every 8 days.
The place for the poor in this picture (assuming they can buy enough of whatever crap people buy to create 4 bags of garbage a week) is on the bus carrying their extra bags to the local depots at a buck a pop.

basil said...

. . . in addition to the $4.50 charge for the bus ride.