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Smart Trash Carts Tell If You Haven't Been Recycling 622

Starting next year Cleveland residents face paying a $100 fine if they don't recycle, and the city's new high-tech trash cans will keep track if they don't. The new cans are embedded with radio frequency identification chips and bar codes which keep track of how often residents take them to the curb. If the chip shows you haven't brought your recycle can out in a while, a lucky trash supervisor will go through your can looking for recyclables. From the article: "Trash carts containing more than 10 percent recyclable material could lead to a $100 fine, according to Waste Collection Commissioner Ronnie Owens. Recyclables include glass, metal cans, plastic bottles, paper and cardboard."
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Smart Trash Carts Tell If You Haven't Been Recycling

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  • by 5pp000 ( 873881 ) * on Sunday August 22, 2010 @03:04PM (#33333498)

    From TFA:

    Cleveland pays $30 a ton to dump garbage in landfills, but earns $26 a ton for recyclables.

    I wouldn't think Cleveland would spend money on "smart trash carts" unless there were some truth to this claim.

  • by cptdondo ( 59460 ) on Sunday August 22, 2010 @03:07PM (#33333518) Journal

    Depends on where you live. Some places don't have easy access to landfills anymore and it's cheaper to subsidize recycling than to landfill.

    And some places just believe it's the right thing to do and pay the costs anyway.

  • by cosm ( 1072588 ) < minus bsd> on Sunday August 22, 2010 @03:08PM (#33333520)
    Day by day we march towards complete and total Orwellian overwatch.
  • by KDN ( 3283 ) on Sunday August 22, 2010 @03:11PM (#33333546)

    Ticket for not taking out trash, ticket for taking out trash too early, ticket for not taking containers in early enough, ticket for too much weight in trash. Is this really helping out the environment or just a hidden way to increase taxes? I do note that their metric of success is how many tickets they issue.

  • Alles in ordnung

    Excessive regulation []

    When it becomes naturally profitable to recycle people will do so themselves. Right now I don't throw away aluminum, stainless steel, brass, copper, lead, steel, some types of glass and several plastics plus newspapers. I use the glass, plastic and newspapers myself. I've found two places that will compete for the stainless, copper, lead and brass which I happen to come across and make my collection and transport costs worthwhile. The steel and aluminum go to another salvager which is reasonably close and pays well. I do this for my own benefit and will keep doing it regardless of the states insistence I line their pockets.

  • by parallel_prankster ( 1455313 ) on Sunday August 22, 2010 @03:15PM (#33333584)
    I have to throw trash down the chute into a central container for my entire apt complex and I know a lot of places here have that mechanism. How are they going to figure out then whose trash is it? Also, what if you take your trash out yourself and not use trash services. I know a lot of people who do that - saves 20$ a month.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 22, 2010 @03:15PM (#33333586)

    That show (in general, and that episode in particular) are about as much proof of that assertion as something your cousin's friend's older brother said. Penn and Teller don't give you evidence, they insult things instead. (Check out their argument about subsidies. There are many pros and cons to be stated for such things, but they don't really do either. They give Teller a gun to rob Penn and then throw the cash around. Logic in action, Bullshit style!)

    Seriously, I wanted to like this show, but it's total crap. It's entertainment rather than education. It's bullshit itself.

    On the other hand, a quick Google search yielded this: [] (and many other links). A balanced view. Recycling isn't always the answer and it's certainly not the only answer, but it's not bullshit, either.

  • by vlm ( 69642 ) on Sunday August 22, 2010 @03:16PM (#33333592)

    It is certainly a "feel good" action. Doing the right thing is sometimes inconvenient or expensive, therefore something inconvenient or expensive must be the right thing to do. Exactly the same mindset as security theater.

    However... One thing recyclables have going for them is they're typically pretty non-toxic, etc. SO IN THEORY a waste disposal company could save money by throwing out really nasty semi-toxic "expensive" garbage in an expensive landfill, like used diapers, food waste, etc. Then relatively non-toxic recyclables like cardboard or newspapers could be disposed of in a cheap less regulated landfill. I would be a bit queasy about taking my kids to a park built on an ex-landfill made out of empty paint cans and carb cleaner bottles, but if I knew the park was built on a pile of relatively harmless shredded cardboard, I wouldn't be as worried. There should be a financial gain to the waste collection company by our separating our trash. And since govt, corporations, and organized crime have merged, its no surprise its criminally illegal to not raise the profits of a trash company by separating trash. However in practice, probably everything that isn't sold, goes in the same hole.

  • by cduffy ( 652 ) <> on Sunday August 22, 2010 @03:17PM (#33333604)

    Who said anything about knocking on doors? They just have to look through the trash you've put out on the curb... which, last I recall, anyone else could legally do just as easily.

  • by Velox_SwiftFox ( 57902 ) on Sunday August 22, 2010 @03:17PM (#33333608)

    I'm wondering how long it will be until my recyclables are considered public property even if I don't put them in the recycling bin.

    "I'm sorry sir, it is now illegal to sell your aluminum cans yourself, you must by law dispose of them in the bin to subsidize the cost of disposing of the non-recyclables, and the part of the "recyclable" stuff that we lose money on."

  • Ridding empty (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 22, 2010 @03:22PM (#33333658)

    So to beat the system I can just attach the RFID to a big rock, put the big rock where it will be right beside my trash can when it's on the curb and then the recycling truck comes by it picks up my RFID tag and they never know that I'm not recycling.

  • by mrnobo1024 ( 464702 ) on Sunday August 22, 2010 @03:24PM (#33333668)

    Oh, get over your entitlement mentality already. You use the waste disposal service, you play by their rules. Don't like it? Buy your own damn landfill. It's not your God-given right to fill ours' up with recyclables.

  • by myth24601 ( 893486 ) on Sunday August 22, 2010 @03:27PM (#33333694)

    Can people opt out of trash collection in the city?

    Out in the country, you can opt for alternative trash collection. You can pay one of any number of companies to pick up your trash or you can take it to the dump yourself. When you live in the city, you have no choice.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 22, 2010 @03:30PM (#33333720)

    It's not collateral damage when you never actually hit your target at all. The city leaders will never know about your brave, courageous acts of civil disobedience. You're nothing but a douchebag with delusions of grandeur.

  • Re:how come (Score:4, Insightful)

    by pspahn ( 1175617 ) on Sunday August 22, 2010 @03:33PM (#33333754)
    Because government prefers to pass the onus on to citizens rather than take responsibility. Besides, they already have too much to do. Clearly citizens' time is less valuable than those who get paid to sort garbage.
  • by supernova87a ( 532540 ) <.kepler1. .at.> on Sunday August 22, 2010 @03:52PM (#33333918)
    What a great solution, and as always, fixing the wrong problem just because we have a technology to do it. We penalize people for having more than a certain fraction of recyclables in the trash, but do nothing about how much absolute amount of trash there is.

    Every kind of recycling incentive program we have is a bandaid to what is really needed -- the prices of things that reflect their true cost to society.
  • by pushing-robot ( 1037830 ) on Sunday August 22, 2010 @03:53PM (#33333926)

    Yes, and the people running the disposal service have rights too, including the right to run their service they way they wish.

    It's funny how the people who claim oppression are always so willing to tread on the rights of others. "Everyone has to give me what I want, how I want, when I want, for the price I want, because I have rights!"

  • Re:how come (Score:5, Insightful)

    by brusk ( 135896 ) on Sunday August 22, 2010 @04:08PM (#33334046)
    Hey, it's your choice. You could vote in favor of higher taxes (or disposal fees) to cover the cost of hiring trash sorters. I prefer to pay lower taxes/fees and do it myself.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 22, 2010 @04:09PM (#33334056)

    Having lived in Cleveland for several years, I'd say the most common dwelling in the city limits is a single or dual family house. They probably are focusing this plan on those dwellings, and have other plans or an exemption for apartment buildings.

  • Re:Silly (Score:4, Insightful)

    by blincoln ( 592401 ) on Sunday August 22, 2010 @04:11PM (#33334090) Homepage Journal

    I've heard comments like this before (including from representatives of cities where recycling is required). Why are materials other than paper not handled along these lines:

    - Shred/chop/smash the material.
    - Run the small pieces through a rinse to take care of e.g. unrinsed bottles.
    - Vibrate or centrifuge the material so the it's sorted by mass.
    - Skim off the different types of plastic (or metal, etc.) in layers.

    ? I'm no expert, but I would think that sorting by mass would be a pretty accurate way of separating the types of raw material. Isn't that more or less how junkyards handle metal recycling of old cars?

  • by Rob the Bold ( 788862 ) on Sunday August 22, 2010 @04:12PM (#33334102)

    So we are forced to GIVE you our property so that you can sell it for profit? Why aren't you paying us?

    That doesn't follow at all.

    I don't agree with Cleveland's approach, but your statement is silly and ignores the facts.

    If you wish to get paid for your recyclable trash, take it to a recycler yourself. No one will find any recyclables in your trash if you've taken them away yourself and sold the aluminum, paper and whatever else of value you can. There is no implication in TFA that residents are forced to give their recyclables to the city, just that they put them in the recycle bins not the trash if they leave them out.

    On the other hand, if you don't want to have the trouble of taking all your recycling away yourself, then the city will come and get it for you. You don't get paid for them, but you also don't have to spend your time and gas taking them somewhere yourself.

  • The rules in TFS wouldn't affect you: they'd notice you don't put out the bins for those goods, inspect your regular trash can, find no recyclable goods, and so can't fine you for throwing them in with the rest of the trash.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 22, 2010 @04:26PM (#33334240)

    I'm old enough to remember when people didn't litter like they do today...when graffiti was rare-to-unknown...when people took their trash out and brought in the empty barrels and containers promptly.

    Puh-lese. Littering is MUCH less prevalent than it was 30 or 40 years ago. Remember the PSA they used to run on TV with the crying Indian? I do, and I remember how much worse the litter used to be back in those days.

    Don't get me wrong. There are still an awful lot of slobs out there who litter. But from what I see in the areas I travel the problem is better than in the "good old days."

  • by John Hasler ( 414242 ) on Sunday August 22, 2010 @04:44PM (#33334366) Homepage

    And some places just believe it's the right thing to do and pay the costs anyway.

    If it doesn't at least break even it is consuming more resources than it saves and is "the right thing to do" only with respect to political correctness.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 22, 2010 @04:52PM (#33334414)

    I'm fairly sure that an unrestricted anonymous waste disposal service wasn't guaranteed in the constitution.

    The Constitution does not "guarantee" what you and I may do. It only restricts what the government may do. Do you understand that?

    The 10th Amendment:
    "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."

    Therefore, I have the power and the right to create unrestricted anonymous waste disposal. It's a guaranteed right of mine and I may provide that service.

    The Constitution does not have to give me that power. I have it.

    So do so. Manage your own waste. Offer the service to neighbors at a lower fee and see if you can out-compete the city service. Or bid to become the city's waste hauler. See if you can do it better.

    Can't? Too bad, so sad, but don't blame the evil government for putting you out to business.

    You're like a nutjob saying, "The second amendment protects my right to have a gun. Now where is my government-subsidized gun?"

  • by sackvillian ( 1476885 ) on Sunday August 22, 2010 @04:59PM (#33334476)

    Environment or revenue generation?

    Both, of course. Generally speaking, we can only get the former when it allows for the latter as well.

  • Re:Silly (Score:2, Insightful)

    by LingNoi ( 1066278 ) on Sunday August 22, 2010 @05:23PM (#33334658)

    Yes trust to our government masters and don't question figures that don't add up... I see where you're coming from..

  • by mysidia ( 191772 ) on Sunday August 22, 2010 @06:04PM (#33334918)

    non-Recycling fines sound like a great revenue opportunity for the city

  • by icebike ( 68054 ) on Sunday August 22, 2010 @06:27PM (#33335100)

    They may get contracts, but recycling is largely a huge failure as many cities/companies end up land-filling the recyclables along with the trash.

    There is no real market for most this stuff except cardboard and metals. (Its already in the form it will be recycled into).

    If recycling pays, as the slogan claims, you would expect some trickle back to the consumer. You would expect some waste-bill reduction. Instead we see punitive measures designed to enforce feel good regulations.

    It doesn't pay, its almost always tax payer funded, and the separation process could be automated at dump sites for less money than duplicate pickup runs and enforcement actions.

    If ever anything needed a good coat of technology this is it.

  • Re:Silly (Score:3, Insightful)

    by dlanod ( 979538 ) on Sunday August 22, 2010 @06:58PM (#33335306)

    It's actually about half that. Because that garbage is no longer going to be dumped at a cost of $30 per ton, they're saving themselves that $30 in addition to making $26. So eight years to pay for itself, but your comments on the longevity of the bins still stands.

  • by Totenglocke ( 1291680 ) on Sunday August 22, 2010 @08:15PM (#33335874)

    Homicide rate has nothing to do with guns. Now, if you had numbers for what percent of homicides involved guns, then you might have something close to a point.

    It's been long known that Americans are much more likely to fight than people in Canada and the UK who resemble cows in their lethargic complacency.

    Also, if you were from the US, you'd know that most people DON'T "carry" a gun. Very few states have laws where you're allowed to actually have a gun on you. Amusingly, it's the states where you're NOT allowed to carry a gun that usually have the highest crime rates.

  • Re:Deposit Scheme (Score:4, Insightful)

    by khallow ( 566160 ) on Sunday August 22, 2010 @08:22PM (#33335922)

    We've got a deposit scheme here (Netherlands) and it works a treat. Doesn't take much effort, and you further reduce the amount of land lost to land fills. What's not to love about it?

    This is typical environmentalist religion. Everyone has to make a sacrifice, which "doesn't take much effort" according to its adherents, and in return you get some feelgood (less "land lost to landfills"). Here's how I see it. You are wasting the time of millions of people. Sure it's only a few minutes per week per per person, but it adds up. My take is that proper recycling is probably around five minutes a week per person. For a thousand people, that's 83 hours of labor per week, about two full time jobs in the States, except nobody is getting paid.

    Further, most of these items weren't worth recycling in the first place, or they'd be recycled anyway. Keep in mind that unlike trash disposal, you need a lot of people to handle recycled materials. There's more waste streams to keep track of and someone has to sort the trash. Down the road, I imagine everything will get automated (including tough tasks like sorting milk jugs from PET soda containers), but when that happens, you won't need to sort the trash at all. And for many items, you don't gain any energy advantage from recycling.

    For example, recycling newspaper or plastics still looks to be a net loss (especially if everything gets mixed too much).

    Further, even if you don't have landfill space locally (almost never a problem in the US, but might be a legitimate problem in the Netherlands, due to notorious high land costs), you can always ship your trash (via rail or ship, which is pretty cheap) somewhere else that does have the space (say Eastern Europe or Northern Africa, for example). Now for some reason, people don't like "exporting the pollution", but it is a legitimate solution that can waste less of our collective resources than a recycling program does and can be environmentally sound as well (especially if you move the "pollution" to a place where it has less environmental impact).

    Now let me explain that last claim a bit more. So far, I've just shown that we have a significant loss of labor and hidden costs in the recycling infrastructure. How do I go from there to claiming that we can have an environmentally sound solution. It's worth noting here that wasting peoples' time has an environmental cost to it. You need more people to do the same thing, and all of those people generate pollution. So just ignoring the costs of recycling infrastructure, we still are losing the labor of something like two people per thousand just from the "not much effort" of sorting garbage. That means a bit more pollution. Similarly, just wasting money has an environmental cost to it for similar reasons. To do the same work, you need to spend more and that means a greater diversion of resources in order to do so. That in turn means greater environmental harm.

    These are hidden opportunity costs. We don't see how much more efficient and less polluting society could be, but we do see the savings in landfill space. From a municipality's point of view, that's all that matters. Landfills are unpopular. Recycling programs despite their costs are popular.

  • by Moryath ( 553296 ) on Sunday August 22, 2010 @08:46PM (#33336056)

    The Japanese outlawed carrying swords during the Meiji Restoration (1860s).

    The police still had swords. So did the military. The commoners no longer had swords. Which sucked for them, since the yakuza and other criminals simply started carrying concealable knives, or else started carrying around shit like this [].

    "When guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns." Insert the name of your favorite weapon in place of "guns" and it's still the same.

  • by Dunbal ( 464142 ) * on Sunday August 22, 2010 @08:58PM (#33336126)

    Is this really helping out the environment or just a hidden way to increase taxes?


  • Re:Deposit Scheme (Score:3, Insightful)

    by khallow ( 566160 ) on Sunday August 22, 2010 @09:00PM (#33336134)

    Downside - the usual bitching from the usual people that either hate the idea that they might be helping out their fellow man or vested interests like bottlers that think it will impact sales.

    Why do you think recycling helps your fellow man? Let's look at it. Current schemes require people to sort their trash. That's using up everyone's time at home and at work. If you use up five minutes per person per week, that's still two full working weeks (83 hours of time per week) per thousand people. Further, recycling is generally a costly process with little benefit. Recycling aluminum cans are a clear profit, it takes a lot less energy to recycle an aluminum can than to make one from ore. Glass has some marginal benefit, everything else, paper, plastics, and construction waste doesn't (especially, if they aren't sorted well enough). Then we get to landfills. I simply don't buy, especially in places like the US with a lot of land, that landfills are that costly to build and operate. We can store our trash there or we can store it overseas, then when it becomes valuable enough to mine, we can mine it.

    Instead, I see recycling as a costly sacrifice that, through wasting all of our time and resources, doesn't help our fellow man.

  • by Moryath ( 553296 ) on Sunday August 22, 2010 @09:19PM (#33336228)

    "What a moronic statement."

    Oh really? Funny how it always comes back up [].

    If you outlawed coffee tables, then people who own coffee tables are criminals by definition.

    The difference is that a gun - or a sword, or a knife, or any other weapon - is designed to change the balance of power in a fight.

    If you outlaw guns (or swords, or knives), then the vast majority of the population becomes UNARMED. This makes it that much easier for an armed criminal - already a scofflaw - to commit crimes. The statistics bear it out; in Britain, police outlawed guns, and outlawed any knife which could possibly be drawable and usable in a fight. The result? Massively increased knife crime. Their low numbers of gun crime are related to a general disdain for guns societally (hunting with guns having been an "elite" occupation), but gun crime is now on the rise there despite the incredibly restrictive laws.

    Washington, DC outlawed guns, and during the period when they were outlawed, they spent several years as the gun-crime capital of the US.

    Perhaps we should rephrase it for people like you. Does "If you outlaw weapons, you disarm the populace while doing precisely Jack Crap to prevent criminals who don't give a shit about the law from getting weapons" work better for you?

  • by Dravik ( 699631 ) on Sunday August 22, 2010 @10:28PM (#33336588)
    This is pretty much the standard way cities run these things. You did forget to mention that the "court costs" to fight the $100 fine will probably be $150-$200. For most "administrative" crimes it is more expensive to be innocent than guilty. Of course you have to prove your innocence as well. Good luck with that.
  • Trash Racket (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Joebert ( 946227 ) on Monday August 23, 2010 @01:22AM (#33337474) Homepage
    So Cleveland residents have to pay for trash collection in their water/sewage/etc bills every month, then, if they don't separate the items the trash collection company can get paid for instead of having to pay to dispose of, the residents get fined? Why doesn't the trash company just pay people to pull the recyclables out of the trash back at the base?
  • Re:Silly (Score:3, Insightful)

    by pla ( 258480 ) on Monday August 23, 2010 @06:40AM (#33338794) Journal
    No, I completely understand that your armchair analysis based on a blurb on a tech site is going to trump the city's analysis in all cases.

    With a metric of success based on number of $100 tickets issued, I think we can safely say that they don't expect increased compliance to pay for this. And at $26 per ton, it would take a lot of increased compliance to equal a single ticket.

    They may, however, need to deal with "accidental" success, as has happened with other "punitive" taxes such as on smoking or gasoline - Governments get addicted to what they see as a guaranteed stream of income, then panic when they make those taxes so high that people actually do cut back / quit / start complying more.

    As an aside - Why do people not recycle their own metals? Okay, paper and plastics mostly don't pay enough to make it worth the fuel to transport them. But clean metals pay hundreds on the ton (even common ol' steel goes in the range of $250/ton). Seems like a no brainer, IMO.
  • by Drakkenmensch ( 1255800 ) on Monday August 23, 2010 @08:35AM (#33339448)
    So what's stopping a person from just putting a glass jar or two into the near-empty recycling bin and putting it on the curb every week just so the city guys don't come inspecting his trash? Will there be a minimum quota to be respected? What if you don't generate ENOUGH recyclable trash, will you be considered a non-litterbug and fined for not respecting the consumerism laws?

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