Recycling poll

Recycling is hard to come by. The City of Charlottesville offers recycling (navigating their website makes me just want to give up and throw it all away). The County of Albemarle does not, but offers an informative page with drop-off recycling locations.

I had no idea that our region was voted “most sustainable community in Virginia.”

The Daily Progress’ 2005 Welcome Guide has a recycling roundup. So does the HooK.

One would think that a seemingly progressive region as ours would be willing to financially support recycling. Many of my clients, both existing residents and transplants, ask whether recycling is an option.

Until economics dictate that something is viable, it won’t be an option. In this case, it’s recycling.

Check out the poll in the right sidebar; feel free to add an answer as an option. I’m curious.

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  1. Jim Duncan August 31, 2006 at 15:22

    From an off-line commenter:

    What I wonder about is the practicality of having more localized recycling centers, but stop short of curbside. Sometimes when I’m driving into town to recycle, I wonder if the overall energy and resources being “saved” by recycling is totally offset by me driving 20 miles round trip. If more localized centers were put into place, that would help the fuel usage issue. But then there’s the issue of the County footing the bill from the general tax base, instead of having people individually pay a premium for the service. Not sure how you’d enforce admission to a local center if you haven’t paid your dues. If you do the curbside, then you definitely solve the problem of people (not) using the service who haven’t paid the premium… but I wonder if the price would be so high that nobody would find it appealing… at $10/week, that’s $40/month, and that’s about a tank of gas… so people would then drive into town if they were more concerned about the money than the convenience.

    I guess there’s 3 groups of people to please:
    a) those who recycle for their own sense of well being, regardless of whether they burn an extra 20 miles of gas to do it or not and in the big picture _may_ be hurting things, overall.
    b) those who would rather recycle in a more efficient manner (ie closer to home) without having to pay a premium to “do what’s right”
    c) those who would recycle if the effort dropped closer to zero, even if that meant paying a premium.

    I guess I’m peeling the onion a bit on this one. It seems that once you expand the scope of analysis the problem space just expands to the point that I’m left in “analysis paralysis”, blink a few times, and then drive on auto-pilot to McIntire with a trunk full of beer bottles and cardboard.

  2. B September 1, 2006 at 08:55

    I agree with Jim. For us out in Crozet, the cost for recycling needs to be closer to $0/month. Paying $28/month for regular trash service alone when the dump is located in Ivy is already too expensive. Adding an additional $20/month to the bill just for recycling is a serious deal-breaker. The dump already allows for recycling of cardboard and newspaper, why not expand that and have a full center in Ivy? It would be a minimal cost to the dump, as it’s already on-site.

  3. Tom September 1, 2006 at 16:21

    First, my thanks to Jim for putting up the poll, as it has helped (anecdotally) answer a question I had about the viability of charging for curbside pickup.

    Second, on the issue of price sensitivity, one should consider opportunity cost. My guess is that it takes most county residents between 30 and 60 minutes to complete a round-trip of recycling to McIntire. If that person is making $40k/year, that’s about 20/hr. so recycling costs them $10 – $20 per trip (I’ll postpone the argument that most trips are done on the weekend, and that that time is even more valuable). So, depending on the frequency of trips (probably once per month, maybe 2 times), the monthly cost is anywhere from $10 – $40, or $2.50 to $10 per week. Suddenly, from a costs/benefit point of view, curbside doesn’t seem so bad and salary may easily underestimate how truly valuable time is to a person.

    Then I think one could expand the service to better address the convenience vs. price tradeoff. For example, in addition to taking materials to McIntire recycling, a curbside service could also handle more burdensome items such as:

    – fluorescent bulbs. While these can be thrown away, they do contain small amounts of mercury and should be properly recycled

    – styrofoam – particularly packing peanuts

    – household hazardous wastes (can only be recycled at Ivy once per year)

    – Paint & batteries (to Ivy recycling)

    Residents can do all of these things themselves, but they require special trips to different locations, or at restricted times of year. A one-stop-shopping service could make things much easier.

    Finally – curbside can also make a difference environmentally. With sufficient customers there is greater efficiency in collecting all materials from a neighborhood and making a single trip to the recycling center, particularly if the vehicle is running on biodiesel!

  4. Jim Duncan September 2, 2006 at 09:42

    A few thoughts on the above:

    I’ve never had to pay for curbside recycling in previous cities.

    I’m not sure how relevant this is. The County is a different, far more rural animal than is the City of Charlottesville. Perhaps having recycling targeted at the specific growth areas, and then as they reach critical mass – that might be a way to go. Also, you have paid in other areas. That’s the problem with taxes – they are invisible to most and therefore there is no accountability for governmental costs. You might not have written a check directly to the recycling company, but you most assuredly paid for the service, through property taxes, fuel tax, food tax, etc.

    the cost for recycling needs to be closer to $0/month

    For the private companies that provide trash service, my understanding is that they would need to purchase separate trucks, and therefore more staff, and incur more costs – fuel, insurance, etc. – to deliver recycling services. Nothing is free.

  5. Ray Hyde September 7, 2006 at 00:29

    Recycling is the wrong answer, except in some circumstances.

    Deposits are a better answer generally. We have a deposit on pop bottles, but we ought ot have them on evry manufactured item. Do you think for a second that if a refrigerator manufacturer thought he was going to get all those things back, or else pay the amount of the deposit to the recycler that he would charge $200 for a new door gasket?

    In Germany every manufacturer has to supply a plan for recycling his products. From a practical standpoint that means they have to be built in such a way that they can be dismantled. The side effect is that then they can be REPAIRED.

    Yesterday I spent six hours replacing a chain on my hay mower. The chain jumped off a sprocket that was between the transmision and the frame and jammed in place. That meant the gearbox had to be loosened up to get the chain out, and half the machine had to be dismantled to get at the gearbox.

    Then, the gearbox is held on with four bolts. The three visible ones are 15/16ths, but the one hidden one, buried in an access hole is only 3/4’s. How anyone would know thatwithout the manual is beyond me.

    The whole thing could have been preveted by puting the sproket on the outside of the gearbox, away from the frame. There was plenty of room and good access, in which case the chain job would have been 10 minutes instead of hours.

    I would smack the engineer if I ever met him. But the point is that this kind of cost could easily result in someone just junking an otherwise good machine, simply because it isn’t worth the effort.

    Instead of putting a deposit on soda bottles, we should have them on major appliances and automobiles. Then see how fast the suddenly become repairable, which is far better than recyclable.

  6. Tom September 7, 2006 at 10:03

    The concept of deposits, or manufacturer ownership, to force recycling of major products is a great idea, but it doesn’t really address the issues of curbside recycling. I consume major appliances very rarely – e.g. 1 car about every 5 or 6 years. I go through pounds and pounds of paper, plastic, cans, and cardboard every week and my guess is that it all adds up to the same as the car, TVs and other major appliances I go through each decade. True, my weekly waste isn’t toxic, but it still occupies landfills and consumes resources.

    I’m still not clear on the overall economic and environmental value of recycling; one can find studies that say recycling is costlier, both in terms of money and materials. However, I am convinced that using something once and burying or burning it is not a solution. If recycling is not economical, then it must be streamlined and improved to make it so. Having 1 curbside-pickup diesel truck go McIntire each week vs. 500 cars seems like a good start.

  7. Pingback: Albemarle County now has TWO Curbside Recycling Options | Real Central VA