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Dumpster Turf Wars
October 27, 2006 8:24 PM   Subscribe

Garbage In/Gold Out Which is more important: recycling or the garbage collector's bottom line? Some Oregon cities are backing up the garbage collectors over recyclers. Too bad. First time I've ever seen a dumpster diving company who has a web page with testimonials from police officers.
posted by leftcoastbob (24 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
It's so nice to know that the cops in Salem, Oregon, have solved every other crime in the city and have nothing else to do but follow around people who are compacting and recylcling garbage. It must be absolutely wonderful to live in a city with absolutely no crime other than dumpster diving.

Great job Salem police! We should send y'all off to hunt for Bin Laden.
posted by nyxxxx at 8:43 PM on October 27, 2006


When I lived in Salem, it had it's own city-run recycling program. They sort the garbage after collection. I can think of a few reasons to discourage people climbing into dumpsters and digging through trash, especially if the trash is getting sorted later anyhow.
posted by fatbobsmith at 9:16 PM on October 27, 2006


A dumpster diver in Salem has safety goggles, a rubber jacket, heavy gloves, steel-toed boots, and long-handled pincers? Pampered professionals. There must be a lot of money in dumpster diving there.

Dumpster diving is almost the only recycling in our city. Men who may not have bathed or changed their clothes this year push abandoned baby carriages around to collect anything that can be sold. By the looks of it, they collect mainly soda pop and beer cans, scrap metal, and any non-scrap metal they can peel off something on the sly, and they use at least part of the little money they must get from the scrap metal man to buy the vodka you see them drinking in the park.

Safety goggles and long-handled pincers!
posted by pracowity at 12:08 AM on October 28, 2006


Then there's always the common-sense solution of having people sort the types of things before throwing them out. This would have the same effect on garbage haulers but would avoid the need for the dumpster-diving. Many cities have requirements about putting things in separate containers.
posted by jam_pony at 1:04 AM on October 28, 2006


Then there's always the common-sense solution of having people sort the types of things before throwing them out.

Except that people don't do much of that unless forced.

The best solution is to make all products sold in a country cost the buyer (in the form of a tax) what it costs the government to recycle the remains of that product (packaging + used product + pollutants caused by product) and clean up after the manufacturing process. Then recycling is free to the government (because it has the money up front to pay for it) but mandatory, and the need for recycling drops because manufacturers and sellers find ways to reduce packaging and make products longer lasting and easier to recycle.
posted by pracowity at 5:32 AM on October 28, 2006 [1 favorite]


jam_pony: The point is that there is a large number of people who outright refuse to recycle. Not knowing how to recycle plays a part (or fear of doing it wrong left over from the old "colored paper here, newspaper there, green glass there, tan glass there, but only on third Tuesdays" days), but there's a surprising number of people who just won't do it out of spite. I used to work at a large corporate copy shop in downtown liberal-as-hell Portland, OR and some people would bafflingly, literally go out of their way to avoid recycling, whereas others could care less. One longtime coworker would take the all-paper order envelope recycling directly to the trash dumpster, even though it was a couple yards farther away than the recycling dumpster. When I asked him why, he blew me off. Another coworker would empty all of the customer recycling into the trash dumpster, because it was easier that way and there's an old rumor (I believe it was once fact, actually) that the local garbage co. secretly dumps all paper recycling anyway. Some people avoid recycling out of some anti-hippy grudge or cooler-than-thou-ness.

Nevertheless, most coworkers were keen on recycling. However, almost all (> 90%) of the customer waste we generated was recyclable, but at the end of the day, it was always the customer garbage bins that were overflowing but the recycling bins were barely touched. I spent many an unpleasant end-of-shift voluntarily sorting it all out.

Localized monopolists who cry "free market!" when it's in their favor and then cry, "you're cutting into our profits! Let's pass a law!" at the slightest hint of competition are the biggest asshats ever.

Besides, Willamette Week and the Portland PD get away with dumpster diving. I don't see how this is (legally) any different.
posted by Skwirl at 5:57 AM on October 28, 2006 [1 favorite]


Where is Captain Planet when you need him?
posted by zennie at 6:53 AM on October 28, 2006


some people would bafflingly, literally go out of their way to avoid recycling

Some people are convinced that recycling is bad, a waste of time and money, a pointless task that lefties waste their time doing. Sample arguments.

Both sides need to focus more on reducing waste rather than arguing over how to clean up after the waste has been created. Rather than arguing over what to do with a plastic bottle, make sure the bottle is never made, or is instead made from materials that entirely disintegrate within a very short time under normal landfill conditions. Nature was always the best recycler until we started making so much garbage that bugs couldn't sink their teeth into.
posted by pracowity at 7:03 AM on October 28, 2006


Dumpster diving is illegal in many (most?) places. I've received a not insignificant ticket for it. It ticks me off the amount of reusable and recyclable waste the gets buried in this country every year. Here in Calgary it's not only illegal to scavange at the landfill, they pay a city employee to sit at the drop off to enforce the law.
posted by Mitheral at 7:06 AM on October 28, 2006


there's a surprising number of people who just won't do it out of spite.

Mixing paper and plastic is a sad, sad way of sticking it to The Man.
posted by Opposite George at 9:40 AM on October 28, 2006


Some cities have outlawed dumpster diving because it is linked to crime. Maybe if they could link it to terrorism, then they could get Homeland Security to pay for cops to stake out garbage cans.
posted by leftcoastbob at 11:07 AM on October 28, 2006


Actually, I've stopped recycling - this is why. When local governments get together to promise they won't do this again, I'll recommence.
posted by Arcaz Ino at 1:04 PM on October 28, 2006


If that's your only reason, it sounds as if you were looking for a way out of it. Think again about local recycling and related efforts.
posted by pracowity at 1:19 PM on October 28, 2006


Except that people don't do much of that unless forced.

You mean people in apartment buildings don't do it unless forced. People in single family homes seem to do it at a very high rate.

Of course they are also the biggest consumers of resources, and they are only doing it because they want their neighbors to think of them as "good people", but still..
posted by Chuckles at 2:28 PM on October 28, 2006


...there is a large number of people who outright refuse to recycle.

Me, for instance. I outright refuse to "recycle." The problem with this oregon.com article, as with all discussions of recycling, begins with this little linguistic trick that began back in the 1970s: "Recycling" is defined as you, the consumer, separating your garbage into little piles. But is that "recycling?" No. It's separating your garbage into little piles. Recycling is what happens after you've separated, and the trash haulers have hauled it away, and some outside party has purchased your separated garbage, and puts it to some kind of use. At that point, your garbage is "recycled."

But you see, recyling is never used in that sense for a reason. That reason is this: Recycling is a hoax. Nobody wants your damned garbage, and nobody is willing to pay money for it.

Who is responsible for maintaining this hoax? The trash haulers. Who is behind the trash haulers? Let me ask: Have you ever watched "The Sopranos?" Trash hauling is an organized crime business virtually everywhere in the United States.

Back in the 1970s, when "recycling" became a meme among the upper middle class, suburbanites began demanding that their city governments begin this "recycling" thing, so they could all feel good about themselves and the environment.

The trash haulers didn't know what to make of it at first. But then they quickly jumped on the bandwagon. They painted a few of their garbage trucks green, and began making TWO pickups a week: One for regular garbage, and one for recycleables. Two pickups a week meant more money for the trash haulers.

Now trash haulers, town dumps, landfills, incinerators and city governments all work together in a kind of corrupt collusion -- even before "recycling." They all cooperate to maintain this focus on "recycling" as what YOU do to your garbage (separate it), and not on what THEY should be doing with your garbage (finding somebody to buy and use it).

Every year, suburban city governments put out press released boasting about how much they've recycled that year. But they always defind "recycling" as how much separated garbage they collected, not how much they actually SOLD or reused.

Here's what you need to do today: Ask your city government for a detailed accounting of what they've done with your "recycled" garbage: how much they sold, and to whom, for how much, and for what purpose?

This should be a simple enough thing to ask. But you'll have a hell of a time getting an answer. Because here's the unfortunate truth: The value of your garbage to anybody on earth is dwarfed by the cost of collecting it and storing it. Ask your city government. You'll find that most of what you "recycle" winds up in landfills anyway.
(Of course I realize that there are some exceptions, and that some separated garbage -- aluminium, for instance -- can be and are profitably recycled. But what about your wet newsprint? What about the "cardboard" that that dumpster diver was going after? What about your glass and plastic bottles?)

The cops in Salem, Oregon are sticking up for the trash haulers? What a surprise...
posted by Faze at 2:39 PM on October 28, 2006


That reason is this: Recycling is a hoax. Nobody wants your damned garbage, and nobody is willing to pay money for it.

Don't forget aluminum :P

Also, if your solution is incineration, separating out the wet stuff for composting means that you might actually get a measurable amount of electricity generation. Electricity generation is one of the pillars of the pro incineration argument, so you'd think the advocates would try to be intellectually consistent (well, no, you wouldn't, but you get my point :P).

And then there is the bottle return for reuse system, which is probably very effective.


how much they sold, and to whom, for how much, and for what purpose?

This should be a simple enough thing to ask.


It should be simple.. It should be simple when it comes to any contracts government gets into, but it never is. Do police, fire, or public transit authorities publish analogous information in your city? How many squad cars were purchased last year, and how much did each cost? How many were scrapped, how much did they sell for at auction?

I'm sure you can get at that information if you are repaired to make a career of pursuing it, but recycling is hardly an exception.
posted by Chuckles at 3:48 PM on October 28, 2006


Actually the local police depts send out press release telling how many new squad cars were purchased and then they announce the auctions and how many were sold in the paper. No one ever says anything about how many were scrapped, but cars are one of the most recycled items there are. Even a junker is worth something as scrap.

I know that wasn't really your point...but whatever. I understood your point, just clarifying a little. It's probably a dead thread anyway.
posted by nyxxxx at 9:26 PM on October 28, 2006


The cops in Salem, Oregon are sticking up for the trash haulers? What a surprise...

No, they're staking them out and busting them for no insurance. They're actually police reports not "testimonials" It's very strange, I think the point of posting them is to show how "bad" the cops are treating them.
posted by delmoi at 9:29 PM on October 28, 2006


The testimonials are actually quite funny--except when you realize that tax dollars are being spent on cops in unmarked cars are staking out dumpsters and follow the "dumpster divers" around from one location to another.

That part of it is kinda sick.
posted by leftcoastbob at 10:34 PM on October 28, 2006


That reason is this: Recycling is a hoax.

The Oregon Recycling Handbook says this:
NEWSPAPER Oregon City, Newberg, Longview WA

90% of the newspaper collected in Oregon is made into "new" newsprint. Oregon also imports large amounts of newspaper for this purpose. Small quantities of newspaper go to creative Oregon businesses that manufacture flower pots, packing material, egg cartons, apple crate liners, and construction materials.

CARDBOARD Albany, North Bend, Toledo
Recycled into new corrugated cardboard boxes. Oregon uses all the recycled cardboard the state generates and imports material from as far away as Chicago & Midwest.

CONTAINER GLASS Portland
Clear glass is made into food containers. Some colored glass is shipped out-of-state. If the container bottom has the symbols shown above, it is recycled glass and made in Oregon.

TIN CANS Seattle WA
The only de-tinning operation in the Northwest United States. After the tin is removed, the remaining steel can is sent to mills for refinement & remanufacture.

MIXED WASTE PAPER Northwest & World Markets
Made into molded pulp products such as egg cartons, flower pots, & used as a fiber supplement to various cardboard products.

MAGAZINES Oregon City
A special process removes ink and clay coatings from paper. The fiber is used in other paper products which enhances quality.

MOTOR OIL Oregon City, Coos Bay
Nearly all waste oil recycled on the west coast is processed for use as fuel for cargo ships and other marine uses.

PLASTICS Portland & United States Markets
Baled locally and shipped to be processed for reuse with similar resin types.
That doesn't mean it's all reused, but there's no need to declare, "It ain't perfect, so I ain't playing!" If there's a resource, people will find a way to recover it economically. There is money in recycling or the dumpster divers wouldn't be diving.

Who is responsible for maintaining this hoax? The trash haulers. Who is behind the trash haulers? Let me ask: Have you ever watched "The Sopranos?" Trash hauling is an organized crime business virtually everywhere in the United States.

That must be why those dumpster divers keep getting offed. All those headlines about the mutilated dumpster divers showing up with "Stay off our turf!" written in blood on the pavement.

Yes, the bad guys are in the trash business and a number of other businesses. Construction is another example. But that doesn't mean everything to do with trash collection (or construction) is organized crime, no matter what you've seen on some TV show.
posted by pracowity at 5:38 AM on October 29, 2006


pracowcity -- Thanks for your reply. But the recycling examples you gave are simply empty generalities. I don't know if you work in business, but in any other economic sphere, when you report on your use of resources, you'd better be pretty damned specific or you're out of a job. I don't what to hear that
NEWSPAPER Oregon City, Newberg, Longview WA

90% of the newspaper collected in Oregon is made into "new" newsprint. Oregon also imports large amounts of newspaper for this purpose. Small quantities of newspaper go to creative Oregon businesses that manufacture flower pots, packing material, egg cartons, apple crate liners, and construction materials.


Who is making this "new" newsprint, and how come newpaper I know buys any? Who are the "creative" Oregon businesses that mnufacture "flower pots," etc.? Why can't they be named? Why can any of the companies supposedly doing all this recycling be named, and why can't the local governments involved give you some kind of dollar figure? Why -- in short -- can't they publish the figures? Someone must be keeping tabs. Why is it that the same people who assume (I'm sure rightfully) that everything their government says about the war in Iraq is bullshit, would accept these empty, obscurantist public relations statements about recycling? There is not a single investigatable or verifiable fact in any one of the statements you provided.

This sentence doesn't even make sense:
MAGAZINES Oregon City
...The fiber is used in other paper products which enhances quality.


A "special process?" What are we, children? What special process? Describe it, or name it. "Special" doesn't tell me anything. Who performs this special process? This line is classic bullshit. "The fiber is used in other paper products which enhances quality," Who is using it? Name the companies who are performing this "special process," and name the companies who are buying it.

The reason why they are not giving you specific examples of how they are using recycled products is because NOBODY IS USING YOUR RECYCLED GARBAGE. The few businesses that do actually use recycled products are virtually hobbies, or the special projects of rich heirs and heiresses with bad consciences.
NO REAL BUSINESS RUN BY REAL BUSINESSPEOPLE IS INTERESTED IN YOUR GARBAGE. Except the mafia. Which makes money from pretending to "recycle" you old beer cans.
posted by Faze at 6:54 AM on October 29, 2006


The reason why they are not giving you specific examples of how they are using recycled products is because NOBODY IS USING YOUR RECYCLED GARBAGE.

Well, to be fair...
posted by leftcoastbob at 7:47 AM on October 29, 2006


Who is making this "new" newsprint, and how come newpaper I know buys any? Who are the "creative" Oregon businesses that mnufacture "flower pots," etc.?

This kind of information often falls in the category of trade secret. Kind of silly, I know, but the idea is that if your competitors know who uses certain kinds of recycled raw material, they can try to outbid you on price.

Certainly the information about Oregon recycling is too vague to have much impact. It is pretty much equivalent to the press releases your local police force put out about new purchases though, which should help dispel the great recycling conspiracy notion a bit :P
posted by Chuckles at 10:17 AM on October 29, 2006


You mean people in apartment buildings don't do it unless forced. People in single family homes seem to do it at a very high rate.

I've just moved from an apartment in a house to one in a building: in the house, I paid for a curbside recycling program, since I've lived for decades in places that recycled as a matter of course and didn't want to stop. They came every 2 weeks and picked up newspaper, fine paper and cans and bottles.

I'm now in an apartment in a building, and the only way to avoid throwing out bottles, cans and paper is to buy myself a car and drive it across town. The nearest recycling bin is 10 blocks away, and only takes cardboard -- not newspaper, cans or bottles, which I have a lot of. I don't recycle, but not because I'm some kinda floozy apartment dweller: it's prohibitively difficult.

Recycling isn't a purity test case: make it easy, and people do it. Make it expensive to have the trash picked up and cheap to recycle, and people *really* do it.
posted by jrochest at 12:08 PM on October 30, 2006


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