Opting out of the garbage system

TrashcanToronto’s tentative plan to switch to a garbage system where householders pay an annual fee according to the size of bin they use is, let’s say, controversial. (I wrote about this earlier and attracted some irate attention.)

I repeat that I think the general concept is sound but Toronto’s plan bungles the pricing structure for garbage.

Everybody gets a $209 rebate right off the top, representing the average cost of garbage service to each household in the city; instead, they ought to subtract the costs proportionately to the taxes people pay.

Worse, though, the smallest bin you can order from the city carries with it a fee of $209 a year, so best-case, you come out even. (Bigger bins cost up to $360 a year, for a net extra charge of $151.) If you’re really good with reducing, reusing and recycling, it ought to be possible to pay less than you do right now as a reward for really doing what the city wants of you. Unfortunately, Toronto’s city staff say they’re trying to pull in an extra $54 million for more diversion programs, so nobody’s allowed to come out ahead.

One further option that Torontonians ought to have, which the proposal (PDF) doesn’t appear to give them, is the right to opt out entirely and have someone else handle their trash. Eamonn Butler of the Adam Smith Institute points out this is a trend in Britain:

So I was pleased to learn of a new, private collection service called Bin & Gone in Yorkshire, which apparently charges £90 a year to ensure householders get a weekly collection, and has bought its own refuse truck to do so. Meanwhile a friend in Hampshire tells me that a body in Romsey also plans a private alternative to the local authority’s service (or lack of it), and are putting out flyers to gauge the market. The service “will be provided at minimal cost and include the supply of free dustbin and peddle bin liners as well as a free bin washing service” – rather better than the council’s grudging effort.

The private companies, being profit-making enterprises, have to find landfills that will take the garbage they collect and will doubtless pay the going “tipping fee” for the landfill space. Their customers won’t be the city’s problem at all.

(Photo credit: “Bulembu,” Flickr/Miss Heidi B)

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