Friday, November 15, 2013

Houston, we have a problem....

If a happy cartoon doesn't inspire you, what will?

My neighborhood is going from recycling buckets picked up by human beings, to recycling containers picked up by trucks (auto v. manual, basically).  To say it is not going smoothly would be an understatement.

A few weeks ago the City sent out a letter explaining that new containers were coming, the weeks during which they would arrive, and when they would be used.  We all have buckets, hand-held containers for recycling that get put out twice a month; these would be replaced with green (v. black) garbage cans much like we all have now.  These will also be picked up twice a month (v. weekly for garbage), but the new trucks won't pick up the new containers until two weeks after the old containers are used.  The old containers will be picked up on the last day of use, the new containers will be used two weeks after that.

You can probably see the problem already.

The letter that went out didn't say which date our old containers would vanish, and which date the new ones would be employed.  It didn't say which date because the letter was written for the entire city, and different neighborhoods get their recycling and garbage picked up on different days.  Instead, the letter indicated which schedule you were on would affect the schedule of the transition, and that schedule was, for this area, one of two.  You figure it out, in other words, based on the information in the letter, and respond accordingly.

Therein lies the problem.

The streets of my neighborhood this morning are lined with old green buckets and new green containers.  Some of the containers seem to contain trash.  Some probably contain recyclable items.  Some stand alongside the old green buckets, also overflowing with recyclables.  Some stand alone.  Some aren't out at all.

Did I mention that when the new buckets arrived, a copy of the same letter received two weeks earlier was attached?  Communication was not the problem; although the letter read like it was written by a bureaucrat instead of a regular person.  It could, in other words, have been much clearer.

We've been through this before.  The City stopped picking up regular plastic lawn bags, and required all bags be decomposable, so the lawn trash could be mulched into compost.  Lots of black bags kept appearing at curbside and received lots of orange stickers explaining why they were left at curbside before everybody finally got the message.  It was easily six months, and probably a year, before that transition finally ended.

I suspect a lot of houses in the neighborhood are going to be left with the green buckets after today.  I also suspect a lot of people are going to wonder why the green containers weren't emptied; especially the people who used them as trash cans.

If this sounds vaguely similar to the minor freakout over the ACA that seems to be all D.C. can talk about, I don't think that's an accident.  Maybe a million people looked at insurance policies, but didn't commit.  A handful are complaining they can't keep pouring money down the rathole of the plans that are completely worthless, mostly because they haven't figured out yet that those plans are worthless (some more so than others).  I suspect if the City made recycling mandatory on the grounds it would save a great deal of landfill space, a lot of residents of the City would complain about the burden that put on them; never realizing the burden they put on everyone else by expecting whatever they don't want in their house to vanish with the least effort or attention on their part possible.

If we don't handle these changes well, it's not because the government is incompetent.  Indeed, as Charlie Pierce said this morning, almost all of this is on us.

Maybe that's why we complain so much about everybody else.


  1. I'd gotten so I couldn't read Pierce any more - too much doomy hyperbole - but he is making a lot of sense here.

    I'm a minor cog in local government - member of one of the various boards that help set policy for the county - and it takes time, and sometimes it can be a real pain in the neck. But, dammit, somebody's got to do it - and I can't help but think, sometimes, from reading various left-ish websites, that there aren't enough of us actually *trying*, on the levels that don't get publicity - and that's where the 9% who oppose background checks win the battle. It just shows up more at the higher levels

  2. The only solution would be to cancel all trash service.

  3. It's the only way to be sure.