Trashed: Inside the Deadly World of Private Garbage Collection
January 15, 2018 4:56 AM   Subscribe

Streets Blog NYC regularly covers the dangers to pedestrians and cyclists from garbage trucks.
posted by kokaku at 6:05 AM on January 15, 2018 [4 favorites]

Also, haven't we done this before with private fire departments (3 separate links).
posted by kokaku at 6:09 AM on January 15, 2018

This is an actual Simpson's episode.

As I've said about 2017/2018. We now just live inside of one giant The Onion article. There's no room for satire anymore.
posted by Fizz at 6:20 AM on January 15, 2018 [9 favorites]

A great argument against the privatisation of Essential Services.

I worked a couple of summers "lifting bins". It was a great job, before privatisation of course.
posted by Homemade Interossiter at 6:23 AM on January 15, 2018 [7 favorites]

Derf Backderf, better known as the author of My Friend Dahmer, also has a great graphic novel, Trashed, about his work as a garbage worker. It's not a fun job.
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:26 AM on January 15, 2018 [7 favorites]

A great argument against the privatisation of Essential Services.

The incentives that encourage these companies ($$) to make work unsafe and unfair for their employees aren't unique to essential services jobs, though. It's all jobs, and is only curtailed by effective regulation and enforcement. The US doesn't have either because we've been convinced by corporate politics that workers shouldn't have rights.

Though, I would love to see these companies kicked out and everyone hired by the municipality to service those busineses...
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 6:32 AM on January 15, 2018 [9 favorites]

Not only is this obviously dangerous for both workers and everyone else in the city (from car accidents), it's astonishingly inefficient.

"Since each business chooses its own carter, a dozen garbage trucks might converge on a single block over the course of a night. In one five-block stretch near Rockefeller Center, for example, 27 garbage companies stop at 86 businesses, according to an analysis of city data by ProPublica and the Investigative Fund at the Nation Institute. "

It's even inefficient among the private trash collectors. If they had any sense, they'd mutually agree to split up the city geographically to reduce drive time and save gas, and then collectively lobby the city to require company licencing and prevent new entrants from disturbing the prior geographic division. This would reduce their costs and be safer for their employees. Better conditions would also probably help them with turnover (big cost) and reduce accidents (lawsuits are expensive, particularly when you hit or crush people with big trucks).
posted by leotrotsky at 6:37 AM on January 15, 2018 [18 favorites]

Most places I've lived haven't been able to support more than 3 or 4 private haulers. Even here in Miami I haven't seen more than that.

Funny that you posted this on one of the only two days a year the city doesn't pick up garbage. The city waste collectors get Christmas Day and today off. Any other time, they're burning PTO.
posted by wierdo at 6:42 AM on January 15, 2018

Follow up on previous comment:

Suddenly, all businesses had to pay for their trash collection. The Mafia quickly carved the city into territories. Under what was called the property-rights system, each stop was “owned” by a specified hauler. Attempting to underbid another carter was considered to be “stealing” his customer. Garbage haulers colluded, submitting uniformly high price estimates to a customer. Then the stop’s owner would offer a slightly lower estimate to win the contract — a practice better known as bid-rigging.

The Mob had this one right. The trick is to enforce the same framework, establish a new cartel, but INSIDE the system, instead of with baseball bats and severed heads. This is the chaos you get when you destroy an existing stable (if corrupt) system, just like in Mexico after the cartel crackdown and in Iraq after deposing Hussein. The city's problem was leaving a power vacuum instead of immediately imposing a zoning system like the Mob had, and like what DiBlasio is proposing now.

In August 2016, the de Blasio administration released a study that recommended reining in the chaos of New York’s waste and recycling industry by dividing the city into zones. A company would make a bid to collect the garbage from all of the businesses in a given zone, and the city would pick the winner. According to the study, which was done by the Department of Sanitation and the BIC, zoning could reduce truck traffic by up to 68 percent and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 64 percent, leading to “cleaner air” and “safer streets,” as well as improve recycling rates, customer service and worker safety. A handful of cities, including Seattle, San Jose and Los Angeles, have introduced zoning. The efforts in Seattle and San Jose have yielded improved recycling rates and higher wages; the changes in Los Angeles are still being implemented.

This is obviously the right answer, but now you've got entrenched interests you're fighting against.
posted by leotrotsky at 6:50 AM on January 15, 2018 [8 favorites]

Leotrotsky, they can't "mutually agree" anything that can remotely affect clients. The Mafia rigged the carting market for 40 years by "mutually agreeing" on all kinds of things. They have to compete with each other on an unrestricted basis as long as there are two or more of them.

Now, there's nothing to prevent the city determining that carting is a "natural monopoly" and then allocating on a cost-plus public utility basis. The issue there is that the city won't be able to help itself from imposing mandates upon providers such that the price to commercial garbage customers will go through the roof.
posted by MattD at 7:20 AM on January 15, 2018 [2 favorites]

Act 3 of the This American Life episode Garbage describes the (more or less?) successful efforts to drive the mob out of the NYC garbage collection business in the 1990s. What really stands out to me is that the prices immediately decreased by 40% once the mob cartel was taken down, but within a few years the business had been taken over by large corporations like Waste Management, and prices had returned to where they were when the mob ran things.
posted by TedW at 7:51 AM on January 15, 2018 [5 favorites]

The Invisible Hand of the Marketplace turns out to be an Iron Fist.
posted by kozad at 8:57 AM on January 15, 2018 [3 favorites]

When I read the title I had two completely differently thoughts, one after the other. The first was technical: private garbage collection? Is this a new memory management technique? After clicking into the article the second was local: I am a man, the sanitation strike, and the assassination of King. The race for survival has been going on for 50 years; I'm surprised that an article published on this month wouldn't mention it.
posted by grimjeer at 8:59 AM on January 15, 2018

“In the history of the company I am sure there have been times where supervisors have inappropriately rushed people,” said Action Carting CEO Ron Bergamini. “They shouldn’t be, and they’d be fired if they ever told people to run red lights or speed. But you have to find the balance between efficiency and safety, and that’s a struggle we work on every day. But you cannot turn around and say, ‘Hey just take your time, go as long as you want.’”

Of course you don't tell people to run red lights or speed. That will get you sued eventually. On the other hand, when you define "efficiency" tightly enough, workers will speed and run red lights on their own, then you can fire them for "breaking company policy." And, in the meantime, 10 trucks do the work of 12 or 15 or 18. What's a few pedestrians, cyclists, and workers when profits are on the line?
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:02 AM on January 15, 2018 [10 favorites]

This was playing in my head as I read the article: Halo of Flies - “Garbage Rock”
posted by porn in the woods at 6:20 PM on January 15, 2018

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