Despite abundant evidence to the contrary, the Davis City Council, once again taking its marching orders from the Natural Resources Commission, decided that size does matter when it comes to how much each household is charged for garbage collection.
The council seems to think that by charging six dollars a month more for those using a 95-gallon can versus those use a 65-gallon can, Davisites will magically produce less garbage and one day soon we’ll be back on “Good Morning America” where we belong.
It’s a great theory, but one that doesn’t hold much water. Or garbage.
Numerous studies have shown that those who do bite at this small economic incentive and request a smaller garbage can actually produce nearly the same amount of garbage for pickup every week. They just do a better job of cramming it into the smaller container.
These same studies show that downsizing also causes some folks to “contaminate” their recyclables when they don’t have enough room in the regular garbage can. In plain, simple English, when the garbage can is full, they start sneaking garbage into the recycle bin.
Or they toss it into a Dumpster behind a nearby apartment building just like that guy who helped UC Davis’ Mad Bomber some months ago.
Now, six bucks is not exactly chump change on my side of the tracks, especially with the Dollar Tree beckoning just down the street. Heck, with six bucks, plus tax, our entire family could pick out a treat for each of us, but let’s be honest, very few people are going to go to the bother of downsizing their garbage can to save the price of a cup of coffee. It’s just not going to happen.
But if it does, the city is going to be stuck with finding a place to store all those now obsolete 95-gallon cans that are being exchanged.
According to the city’s Prop. 218 notice, “Pursuant to state law, the City is currently required to annually divert 50 percent of its waste (3.8 pounds of waste generated per person, per day equivalent) from the landfill.”
Wow, 3.8 pounds per day? Our littlest one can’t even lift 3.8 pounds, no less create that much garbage in a single day. But, they’re the experts, so I’ll take their word for it.
Adds the city: “Both the city and the state have set a goal of reaching 75 percent diversion by 2020. To comply with the state diversion mandate, the city implemented a recycling program, a yard material composting program, and a commercial food scrap program. Additionally, it has determined to restructure its single-family residential solid waste service fees to a variable rate structure and the service fees are calculated on the basis of the charges imposed on the city by DWR for solid waste services pursuant to the agreement and the city’s administration and operations costs.”
Speaking of which, if thousands of folks suddenly change out their larger cans for smaller ones, administration costs will indeed rise, even if the cost of collecting the garbage from either size can is equal. There is a small difference in cost based on the weight of the garbage, but not nearly enough to justify a six-dollar difference. Especially if, as some studies have shown, the tightly packed garbage in the 65-gallon can weighs as much as the loosely packed garbage in the 95-gallon can.
Be that as it may, folks on our humble street have banded together to form a Neighborhood Trash Watch, assigning one of us each week to assess which garbage cans on the block are full and which ones aren’t.
Another one of us is assigned to assess the upcoming garbage needs of each individual household, taking into account vacations, multiple birthdays in the same week, visits from a garbage-generating grandma in North Dakota or a non-recycling uncle in Mississippi who thinks separating garbage is a communist plot. (It is.)
The week’s neighborhood coordinator — known as the Garbage Guru, complete with a special hat that rotates from household to household — then assigns excess garbage to empty or near-empty cans.
Thus, if Beth is out of town hiking the Appalachian Trail, Tim’s Thursday night party trash goes in her can, and so on up and down the street.
Given that this plan saves each household six bucks a month, we pool our money at the end of the year and throw one really big neighborhood block party that is guaranteed to overflow everyone’s can.
It’s a plan that works like a charm, even if the NRC may frown on our efforts.
— Reach Bob Dunning at email@example.com