For a long time now I've quietly resisted recycling. It seems to me that if I'm paying for garbage collection, then I should get garbage collection. You know, where they come and take the garbage away. Should anyone wish to sort through what I have paid hard money to have hauled off in the hopes of making a buck on it, they have my blessing. But if I am going to be required to use my time and energy to pre-sort so that somebody else's job is easier, I expect to get paid for it. Like, apply the profit from the sale of recyclable material to lower my garbage collection bill. More fool am I! They increase my taxes and reduce the service instead, Hamilton is going to go to one-bag-per-week collection rules.
Strangely, I find this irritating.
When I complain about the foul nature of government mandated recycling, people always tell me about Sweden. Northern eco-paradise where everyone recycles and all is bliss and love. Or not.
So, how's that working out for them?
The way it has been presented to me, Sweden has succeeded with what most other governments at best dream about: creating an efficient and profitable national system for saving the environment through large-scale recycling. And the people are all in on it! Everybody's recycling.The latter is actually true: everybody is recycling. But that is the result of government force, not a voluntary choice.
Just about as expected, then.
Economically, Swedish recycling is a disaster. Imagine a whole population spending time and money cleaning their garbage and driving it around the neighborhood rather than working or investing in a productive market! According to the government's books, more money flows in than flows out; therefore recycling is profitable. But this ignores the costs of coercion.
The government bookkeepers also take advantage of the cost cuts they have been able to realize through centralizing the garbage collection system. These "cuts," however, are mostly cuts in service, whereas rates for consumers have been increased. A recent problem with the garbage-collection centers is that the containers aren't emptied very often (a typical example of government "savings") and thus remain full, which means that people's garbage piles up next to the overflowing containers while the government contractors sit idle: they are only paid to empty the containers on schedule, not to pick up the trash sitting next to these containers. The result? Disease and rats. Newspapers have been reporting on a "rat invasion" in Stockholm and in other Swedish cities in recent years.
If we consider the costs in monetary terms, in terms of wasted time, and in terms of increased emissions from automobiles, this is hardly environmentally friendly. Adding the annoyance and the increased risk for disease, Swedish recycling is at least as disastrous as any other government scheme.
So the next time some good hearted soul chides you about not sorting your glass from your plastics, tell them about the Great Swedish Rat Invasion.
The Phantom Recycling Denier.