Rules about trash – what happens

Freakonomics has a few articles about the unintended consequences of rules for trash (1, 2).

“The introduction of new pay-by-weight trash charges in Ireland seems to have produced a strange and troubling effect: an increase in burn victims at St. James Hospital in Dublin.


The theory is that people wanted to avoid having to pay for all their trash so instead they burned it in their backyards.”


“Now, a family in Sharon Township, Ohio (where residents are charged for their trash), left behind a big mess when they moved out of their home. “When I opened the garage door, there was a year’s worth of garbage stacked in the garage, and on top of that garbage was a rat that looked like a small cat to me,” said a neighbor.”

Canada has some restrictions on home garbage pickup (I think it is one or two free bags and once a week or once in two weeks).  There are also many public garbage bins in towns, cities and parks.  I don’t know where the garbage goes, but the towns, cities and parks do look clean.

Contractors – home builders and renovators- must pay for commercial garbage collection.  I think, in fact, that anyone doing home renovations must pay for special collection.  I recall that while working at the recreation centre in Bracebridge someone was dumping their renovation waste in our dumpster at night to avoid paying fees.  Good for them but annoying for us.

In Korea, there are almost no garbage bins in, well, anywhere.  Garbage bags in a variety of sizes are bought from stores and recycling is very well followed with great source separation -three or more kinds of plastics, at least two different kinds of glass…- so household waste is efficiently taken care of.  Still, the ditches of many backroads are filled with waste.  The lack of garbage bins in towns means that just dropping the trash on the street seems a reasonable option even for me and I am pretty careful in such matters.  Here in Korea, I have seen more rats than I ever did in Canada, but the trash seems mostly to feed the feral cat population.

Tragedy of the commons indeed.


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2 Responses to “Rules about trash – what happens”

  1. Mom Says:

    How about combining your recreation program with a trash cleanup?
    Maybe you could fund raise for a couple of outdoor garbage recepticles for your play area.
    Is the question…who would maintain them?

  2. surprisesaplenty Says:

    Yes, that would be a good idea for the very local problem -trash cans at the playgrounds in our complex. The trouble would be in maintaining them and in keeping them from being filled with garbage obviously carried from an apartment.

    Because garbage bags cost money, and because it is now summer, people might be tempted to use the free trash can to clear their homes of smelly but not full bags of trash.

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