We recently moved from inside the city limits of a suburban town to a house that is not within the limits of any municipality. One of the things that changed for us was the way we procure garbage and recycling pickup. Our previous homes (and there have been six that we’ve rented or owned) have all been within city limits and have always had municipal trash service. For the first time, I had to find a private company and pay them to pick up our garbage.
Sound like a bummer, right? Of course not. In fact, the more I think about it, the better it is this way. Here’s why:
First, city trash disposal is NEVER free – you just don’t think about it when you pay your property taxes, especially if they’re paid through an escrow account in your mortgage. But it’s not free.
With city trash, you have no choice. This can be very significant. The suburban town we formerly lived in recently debated a scheme that would have required residents to purchase a particular type of trash bag if they wanted their trash picked up. This would have amounted to a tax hike or a fee increase, depending on the semantics, and we would have had to swallow it because there was no other option other than hauling it to a dump somewhere in my minivan.
If a private disposal company came up with a half-brained scheme like that, I’d just fire them and go elsewhere… which is why they’d never do something like that. You see, the private company has to aim to please me in order to keep my business. They have to keep their price competitive and, therefore, their operation must be efficient… something a government operation will never be accused of. They also have to treat me well. Throw my trash container in the flowers or neglect to pick up my recycling? No way – that’s not how you treat a customer/client whose business you want to retain. The city we lived in did that kind of thing on occasion. I bet the private company won’t.
It’s a small and mundane example of why the free market is so much better than government intervention.