Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Maybe The Trash Police Really Are Coming....

You may remember that one of the mini-dramas during City Council's budget fight concerned the purchase of new, bigger, better recycling bins for city residents. While I continue to consider myself a Democrat, I've not hid my lack of passion regarding environmental issues. Keep a rec center open or do something "environmentally conscious"? Save a job but kill a spotted owl? I'll choose rec centers and jobs every time.

Nonetheless, I recognize that Mt. Rumpke cannot continue to grow ad infinitum. So increased recycling--assuming it doesn't come at the expense of social services or other core government functions--is probably a good thing. But I was disturbed by the following from the Enquirer's article on the new bins:

Each cart will have a tag that can be read from a collection truck. That tag will tell the city who's recycling and how much. Those who recycle most will earn points to redeem through a system called RecycleBank, which offers rewards from stores including Whole Foods, CVS and Bed Bath & Beyond.

Really? The city is now monitoring how much individual households recycle? It makes me glad I'm an apartment-dweller.

Does anyone remember two years ago, when Chris Monzel proposed a fine for people who put "inappropriate garbage" in city-owned trash cans? At the time, I ridiculed the suggestion, as did most of our commenters.

But is it paranoia to think that the city's new recycling program is the first step towards punishing people who don't recycle enough? Now that the cans are being distributed, what would stop the city from calculating how much a typical household should recycle, and punishing (i.e., taxing) anyone who falls below some threshhold level? Some, no doubt, would think that to be a terrific idea. I'm concerned, though, any time we find new ways for the government to know more about our daily lives. (Yes, I realize I have no right to privacy in trash--or recycling--I leave at the curb; however, constant government monitoring of each citizen's trash/recycling habits is far removed from the possiblity that a police officer, looking for evidence of a crime, might snoop in an individual's abandoned trash.)

On the bright side, one of RecycleBank's partners is Cold Stone Creamery. So at least there will be ice cream.

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