Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Efficiency and Rubbish

I was driving through the suburb I live in last week on rubbish collection day. One thing that for some reason caught my attention more so than usual was the number of different branded rubbish bins on the side of the road. I counted at least 6; not including the council’s recycling bins and the various green-waste company bins; this was just the household-waste wheelie-bins. This means that every week, just in my small suburb, at least 6 rubbish-bin trucks (probably closer to 10), 1 rubbish-bag truck, 3+ garden-waste trucks and every second week the recycling trucks come through.

Here’s why I think this is a problem and it can be summed up in one word: redundancy. If all the rubbish collection was socialised, those 6-10 private rubbish trucks that come through my small suburb could probably be reduced to just one truck. If rubbish collection was all conducted by the local council (and not just the rubbish bags and recycling) the cost would be lower and the environmental impact would be reduced by not having redundant rubbish trucks trekking all over the city increasing congestion and emitting more pollutants and greenhouse gases.

However now that a large portion of rubbish collection has been privatised for profit it is hard to go back to the more logical socialised system, as you would have to either force the companies to sell to the council (which would cost ratepayers), or simply cut the private companies out of the picture, which could be disputed on legal grounds. Whatever the solution is to cut out this unnecessary waste something needs to be done. We have an oil crisis looming in the foreseeable future, and then there’s runaway climate change, which is exasperated by our excessive greenhouse gas emissions. The redundancy in Auckland’s rubbish collection may be a negligible contributor to the global problem but it is indicative of a larger problem in society. We need to find ways to cut back emissions and pollution wherever we can.


  1. Do you really think that a private company, that worries only about the profit margin, would have redundancy? Redundancy in a business lowers profits as overheads increase. This is what businesses try to avoid.

    I would say that if we were to revert back to a public rubbish disposal, the lack of a driving economic force like profit margin would breed redundancy and inefficiency. In the same way that a supermarket actually decreases emissions, a centralised and private rubbish collection would seem to decrease emissions. Believe me, they know what they're doing, they're not stupid. And the better they get at rubbish collection (and the more efficient they get too) the more money they make. Which would lead me, logically, to predict that private companies are the better choice in collecting rubbish. Simply because they want to make more money.

    In the same vein, did you know that it actually costs more money to operate a recycling plant than those recycled goods earn? And the operation of a recycling plant emits more greenhouse gasses than it prevents.

  2. Yes, they obviously do have redundancy, not within companies perhaps (having two trucks from the same company covering the same area) but between companies. This is clearly the case already, and that was the thrust of the post, having many companies doing the same thing in the same area with enormous overlap is incredibly inefficient and wasteful.

    I don't see how not running for profit would increase costs at all, especially if it is managed correctly by a governmental body (locally or nationally).

  3. Funny how the free-market-is-always-best position resembles religion. You give actual data suggesting that competing private-sector companies are producing redundancy, and the free-marketer responds with a theoretical argument supposedly proving that what you see with your own eyes can't be happening. Argument from revealed dogma trumps real-world evidence.

    This has been a trait of theirs for some time. If any character in an Ayn Rand novel says "that's just theory", you know it's one she paints as a villain.

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