No dumping

July 9th, 2008
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I have no memory for jokes, long involved stories with a sharp punch line at the end. That said, I couldn’t help thinking last week of one schoolyard joke, vintage 1966, that has stayed with me:

Q. Where does the Lone Ranger take his garbage?
A. To the dump, to the dump, to the dump, dump, dump.
It kept going through my mind when I was forced to deal with the modern garbage bureaucracy in rural Ontario last week. That, and Mr.K’s recent opus on the same theme gave me some food for thought.
The facts are these. Some cleaning of a relative’s house last week necessitated trips to the local landfill. Years ago, the facility had been open to anyone, with a single geriatric watchman keeping an eye on the traffic – when he wasn’t dozing. Now it’s quite a production.
Arriving with the first load, I was told by the main gate-keeper/garbage triage specialist that I needed a “blue card” to dump any garbage. Of course my relatives with the “blue card” were 3000 miles away. Then I remembered that I, as a local property owner, should qualify for a card. Turn the load around and head to the township office.
No problemo. Got the card in five minutes. Back at the dump, the refuse inspector smiled benevolently at the card and asked me if I had “bag tags” for the garbage. Bag tags? Yes, every bag to be dumped requires a tag, a number of which are mailed out to property owners every year. If my relatives had any bag tags they were, of course, 3000 miles away.
Back to the township office, where the plot thickened. Well, the lady politely explained to me, because I owned “undeveloped” land I wasn’t actually sent any bag tags. I could buy tags for $ 1 each if I wanted. OK, so the $1200 annual property tax I pay gets me exactly nothing. I have the theoretical right to dump garbage, but if I actually want to physically dump something, I have to pay! They already wanted to charge me for un-bagged building materials, metal, etc., based on the visual estimation of the refuse refuser.
So I broke down and bought 20 tags. Bags tagged I went back to the dump. I half expected to be asked for a secret code word, or to produce another, previously unmentioned document, but things actually went fairly smoothly. All I got was a lecture about what could be re-cycled and where – glass, plastic, paper. Fine. Load number one was at last disposed of.
The other two loads were all tagged and sorted to avoid further delays. That was the scary thing actually. By the third sortie I had loaded the vehicle in the way that best suited the arrangement at the dump – I had capitulated! Bags on one side, un-bagged on the other, re-cycling in the front (to be unloaded last on the way out).
So there are really two issues here. As I mentioned, after paying thousands of dollars of taxes to the township for decades, that gets me pretty much nothing. But the money is being used for something. Where there was one lazy municipal employee thirty years ago there are now four.
Secondly, I had no option but to cave to whatever arcane waste disposal scheme the township put in place. Based on Mr.K’s observations, it seems that municipal employees are in cahoots nation-wide, attending waste disposal conferences no-doubt, to determine “best practices” for dumping. I can’t believe our local guys came up with the bag tag idea all by themselves!
The result though, may be exactly what my observant friend noted. Rather than submit to the Big Brother system of dumping, rural residents may choose another route. To paraphrase an ex-premier of Alberta, they may decide to “burn, bury and shut up.”
My rapid acquiescence to “the system” is another concern. Would I rat on my garbage-burning neighbours if Big Brother asked me to? Something I’d rather not think about.
The broader context is that this simply represents another example of the attempted legislation of “moral” behaviour, this time in rural garbage dumps. The unavoidable conclusion is that this attempt at legislating morality will be no more successful than the many others.
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By John Weissenberger