Mark Washburn

This idea on trash is a puzzler

When you’re an old fogey, you constantly face this:

Somebody pops up with a new idea, and you don’t like it. You don’t like it because you don’t like anything new. It’s a fine world, so why change it?

Yet change is the natural order of things. If things didn’t change, we’d never have Post-it Notes, that yellow first-down line on TV or pizzas with corn-chip toppings, to name just three innovations that shook the very foundations of civilization.

But sometimes change isn’t good. If you jump on every new thing that comes along, pretty soon you’re stocking up on New Coke, buying lifetime PSLs for the arena football team and cheering about that goofy idea to build toll lanes on I-77.

So here I am, wondering whether I’m just being an old, leave-well-enough-alone fossil when pondering this notion of soaking the masses for their trash.

Old ways: You pay your taxes, you fill the garbage bin, roll it out to the curb, and a growling, snorting truck comes roaring along at dawn and dumps it into its maw. You roll over and go back to sleep.

New ways: You go to the grocery store and buy special trash bags for, say, $50 a box, then stuff your garbage in them and put them in the bin, roll it to the curb, and then a specially equipped, hyper-modern, refuse-inspecting truck comes along and tips your container up, examining each item as gravity does its thing, ensuring that you are feeding it only the premium bags, and if you’re not, rats you out to Sanitation Central, which instantly grinds out a bill charging you for every ounce in violation. Your sleep is taxed by a fugitive’s guilt.

Thus, I find myself in the Old Fogey Dilemma. Am I against this thing because it’s simply something new and refreshing, or do I oppose it because it’s so preposterously absurd?

Not so fast, fogey. When you examine this from all angles, the hidden blessings emerge.

First, the company that proposed this approach to Charlotte is from Raleigh, the wellspring city of so many good ideas.

Next, think of the impact this will have on unemployment. It will make jobs for people who repair sensitive cameras to examine every particle of trash entering the garbage truck. It will make jobs for people to watch the garbage stream as it goes by to ensure compliance. It will make jobs for people who bill and dun the miscreants who violate regulations.

Finally, we’ll want to organize around-the-clock patrols to make sure people don’t start popping their garbage in nearby Dumpsters or in their neighbor’s bin. This can all be paid for by raising the price of the garbage bags. It won’t burden taxpayers.

See what happens when you step out of your old fogey ways? You realize the wonders of a modern age.

You realize that making things more complicated by a factor of, say, a million, brings rewards you never imagined. You realize that technology offers solutions to problems you never even imagined existed.

This is a proposal that the City Council will consider in coming months. I hope they don’t reject it because they’re fogeys.

I hope they reject it because, like the garbage it is, it stinks.

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