Free NYC Garbage!

New York City Lawmakers are all worked up about garbage. It should be simple to collect and dispose of waste, even in a big city. But when it a government project, it becomes a major crisis.

New York officials manage waste using 20-year plans—much like the economic plans that the Soviets used “manage” their economy. The waste plans work about as well. They are subject to never-ending political wrangling.

In the late 1990s, the closing of the city’s “Fresh Kills” landfill in Staten Island led to an uproar elsewhere as New York increased trash exports to Virginia landfills. But that doesn’t work politically, so New York officials want to export less. To that end, they plan to continue the city’s expensive and inefficient recycling program, which Mayors Michael Bloomberg, David Dinkins, and Rudy Giuliani all unsuccessfully tried to halt or downsize because it was bleeding the city budget.

Now the debate is focused on where to locate a new recycling station, which was slated to be placed in West Side of Manhattan south of 14th Street, moving such activities from poorer parts of the city. Yet three state assembly members representing the West Side are holding up the project. Surprise, Surprise.

If New York is ever going to have a rational waste disposal market—they need a free market for trash and less politics. Unfortunately, that means less control for the regulators and less power for the lawmakers, which means it is unlikely to happen anytime soon.