Whole Punch

My apologies. On Friday I mentioned that I would have a question for you in regards to a possible hole in Free Market Theory. I was mistaken.

As I was typing in the thoughts that had been running through my head on this topic over the long weekend, I figured it out and all is well again. It is an amazing thing what stepping back and looking at the problem in writing will do.

Most of what I had already entered in there is still here, but I have changed the ending to show how the eco-socialist cult (aka: the Watermelons) has, in less than 10 years, ruined a well oiled and profitable industry they claim to love.

Eco-Cultists love Recycling. They say it saves trees and other natural resources as well as reduces energy consumption.

Eco-Cultists also hate Big Business. They march on Earth Day with signs that whine about how corporations are ‘raping’ the earth and how those dreaded multi-nationals are trying to make the average folks poor while making themselves wealthy beyond imagination.

But putting these two beliefs together punches holes in the first, and here is why: Recycling is impossible without big business.

First, the products need to picked up, either from your curbside or a central recycling collection center (a big box in the supermarket parking lot or just the place you take your bottles and cans) and transported to a sorting center. This takes a large number of vehicles, commonly called a ‘fleet’ and great deal of fuel for those vehicles.

One-thrid of my employer’s trucks collect and transport recycleables to the sorting facility. Our fleet uses an average of 3000 gallons of diesel fuel a day. After the mathmatics, we find that recycle trucks use approximately 5000 gallons of fuel per week to pick up just one half of the city of Seattle. Our major competitor picks up the other half, most likely using the same amount of fuel.

To “Save a Forest” we are having to “Drain an Oil Field”. That is some trade off the eco-cultists are willing to make.

Once at the sorting center, the product then gets tossed into a collector box/area where all of the same product is gathered, be it paper, cardboard, glass, plastic or metal. Some facilities even break the materials down into the different grades of each material; green glass isn’t the same as clear glass, your cereal box isn’t the same as the box your DVD player came in and your milk jug is different from your plastic Coke bottle.

Once they are separated, the materials get crushed into cubes and baled for sale, except for glass wich is loaded in steel bins. Each bale/bin is weighed so that the facility knows what they have a on hand to sell. The facility has a number of brokers who make sales calls to sell the materials to various manufacturers so that they can make more bottles, cans, boxes and rolls of paper.

You cannot do this on a small scale. Your building needs to be humongous and full of conveyors and baling machines. You also need tractors and tractor trailers to haul the stuff in and out, loaders to push the stuff around and lots of people to drive that equipment and work the conveyor and sort the material.

That takes big money.

You also need someone to be able to buy it and remanufacture the material into useful things like bottles, cans and boxes. That takes even more money.

You then need products to put into the bottles, cans and cardboard boxes. That takes even more money than remanufacturing.

So without big business, recycleable materials would get collected, sorted, baled and then sit around in some yard like so much, well …. trash.

It may surprise you to know that for both Japan and Taiwan, it is cheaper for them to buy the box your DVD player came in, along with thousands of others, have them put into a shipping container, float it across the ocean and make more boxes for more DVD players than it is to chop down a tree and process it into coardboard, even at a price of $50 per ton from the recycling plant.

So now that we have the eco-socialist’s (aka Watermelons) argument beat into the ground, let me tell you about something else:

A local talk show host, when the big push for mandatory recylcling in the city of Seattle was going on, made a very good point; If recycling was real industry, they’d pay you to do it.

And he was right. Some cities and towns don’t charge you anything for the pick up of recyclables, will give a you a container that is huge in comparison to your trash bin and welcome you to fill it up or even call them for a special pick up when you have something too large to fit inside.

Seattle, and most of the rest of King County, is not like that.

If you have a container for trash, per citywide ordinance, you are required to also have a recycle container. In 90% of the cases for commercial businesses, you will not only be charged for the collection of this container, but also for rent on the container itself. Luckily, the city hans’t yet mandated a minimum size ratio for trash-to-recycle, but I see that happening within the next 5 to 7 years when their current experiment starts to fail.

So now, not only has the city said you are not allowed to opt out of your trash collection (saving up a small trailer-load to take to the dump every two weeks is prohibited), they have also mandated that you will have a second set of charges tacked onto your trash bill for, in their words ‘what is best for you’.

The city does all the billing for these services, sets the rates and collects the money. They then give their contractors (my employer and our competitor) a fee depending on the cubic yardage we collect per week/month.

If recycling was truly capable of making an honest profit, your collection would be totally free or the city would rebate you money depending on how much recycleable materials you gave them every collection day.

And here is the nut: We used to do exactly that.

It within the last six years or so, most of the recycle collectors and/or haulers would give the commercial business customer a rebate to their monthly trash bill that was based on either the weight or the cubic yards of the recyclable material. Some customers got money back at the end of the month, usually in the form of a credit towards future bills.

Back then, we were able to sell recycleable materials for, using the example of cardboard, around $60 to $70 per ton. This income paid for the collection, the sorting facility, including all the equipment and the people to run it AND the rebate.

But in the last decade or less, more people began recycling, leading to a very large supply, but very little increase to the demand. Because the laws of supply and demand, as they do for anyone based in the real world, never change, what was once a moderately profitable business is now relying on charging the customer to pay for what was once free to keep it running.

The supply going up can be blamed on two factors: 1. The Watermelons pushing their false worship of everything that “Might Save The Planet”; brainwashing schoolchildren that keeping that cereal box out of the landfill will keep Bambi from suffering, TV commercials showing how happy people that recycled were while spending an hour a week to separate their trash, etc, etc., and 2. Government using it’s arsenal to mandate recycling.

Speaking landfills and lies that the eco-cultists tell, my employer has a landfill that, theoretically, may never be full.

Over the years, especially in the late 70’s/early 80’s, the Watermelons put on a publicity campaign that we were “running out of places to put our trash!” , which was a boldfaced, out and out, lie. Also over the years, the science of landfills has been perfected to, well, a science.

In the landfill I mention, the trash is laid down in layers which are then covered over with a fabric that speeds the bio-degration of the stuff under it. It speeds it up so fast that the bottom layer is 50-75% gone by the time the top layer is covered. The place is so large that, if you were born today, you would be dead before it is full.

But for even that to happen, you would have to double the amount of material placed into it, which isn’t scheduled to happen for another 50 to 60 years.

If this science continues on the pace it is currently on, with special enzymes being incorporated into the layering fabric to speed the bio-degration up even faster, it could be a proverbial ‘bottomless pit’.

I drive past a local ex-landfill everyday on my way to work. They’re pumping enough blue-flame gas out if it that, if they weren’t just burning the stuff off, could supply the surrounding community.

Another technology which one company has come up with is the ‘Clean Incinerator’. This company says that they have gotten gas emmission technology down so that the only thing these incinerators emit will be CO2.

You know, the stuff that comes out of your mouth when you breath out and that trees need to survive?

Oh wait, they also give off one other thing besides CO2: Electricity.

Not a whole bunch of it but enough to power a 20,000 person sized town all year.

Unfortunately, the cultists are against all of this for reasons they refuse to explain. I’m sure you and I know what they are (crashing the US economy, for one), but we are always being called rude when we tell folks about them.

So not only does the left show themselves to be idiots by ruining one of their favorite industries, they won’t even support the ultimate form of recycling: Trash-to-Light.

Maybe if they would sit down and write the problem out, like I did, instead of just waiting to be told about their favorite Doomsday Prophecy, Global Warming (aka: Global Cooling, aka Climate Change), they’d see where they went wrong.

But I seriously doubt that’ll ever happen.

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6 Responses to Whole Punch

  1. You know, I remember doing newspaper drives back in the late 80s when I was in Boy Scouts. I think we got something like $20-25 a ton (in 1988 dollars), but we eventually had to give it up because the price dropped so far.

    No matter how many ‘10% post-consumer fiber’ cups Starbucks sells, the market here just isn’t that big.

  2. Mark says:

    Have you ever seen Penn & Teller’s cable show “Bullshit”? They had a good one on recycling.

  3. Rivrdog says:

    Most enlightening perspective on the trash bidnez, sir, but I would expect that from a conservative trashy insider like you. Heh!

    Now, let’s get serious.

    What you have done here, with the fuel-used vs. recyclables collected statistic, is open a window on moonbattism. That window opens into the disease’s very soul, and is the perfect example (out of many such) that shows just why moonbattism is such a pervasive disease.

    You see, moonbats will ever be thus, and if you needed more proof of their whacko socialist idiocy, which is self-defeating, it is that their support of mandatory recycling is really mandatory support for your company. They are forcing you to make an eeeevil PROFIT and remain at the top of the trash game.

    That said, there are a few aspects of the bidnez that I don’t like. One is the huge mandatory fee for recycling haz-mat.

    When I was a supervisor in a large vehicle repair facility, we collected vast amounts of used ethylene-glycol (antifreeze) engine coolant. Ethylene glycol is EASILY re-refined to get the contaminants out of it. We had to pay (10 years ago, probably much more now) $700.00 per barrel of the stuff shipped to Arlington, the wonderful landfill you mentioned. Arlington is about 125 miles east of Portland. At Arlington, they would verify that it was ethylene glycol (probably by a sniff test), and broker it to a re-refiner, who would come out of Portland the 125 miles, get it and truck it back to Portland. So, the damn chemical had to make a 375-mile trip for nothing, and SOMEONE made 700 bucks per barrel just for being a middleman in the deal.

    THAT’S what I don’t like about the government-sponsored recycling business. It is set up to provide loot to un-necessary people. My shop (the large Base Motor Pool shop of the Oregon Air National Guard) is itself a government-run facility, and could probably have been trusted to sell it’s own used antifreeze.

    BTW, in a different organization I was in, the Sheriff’s Marine Patrol, we maintained a sizeable fleet of boats with large gas engines in them, and collected a large amount of used motor oil. We gave that used motor oil to a fixed base operator in a local airport. He used it for fuel in industrial space heaters which he installed in the bugsmasher airport’s hangars. The heaters were equipped with catalytic converters, and burned clean, and he got a tax rebate for putting them in, as well as getting to charge beaucoup more money for a heated hangar vs a cold hangar.

    It has occured to me that if government simply wrote laws that said “thou shalt not pollute”, enforced them vigorously, and left it up to business as to how to comply with those laws, we’d all be better off and a lot richer in the process.

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