I, The Jury
“Here, here!” to your editorial (June/July issue). We in the industry have all raised an eyebrow from time to time on the ways in which projects and programs have been initiated, with whom, and by whom in the government sector.
However, here’s a thought: have you ever thought that sometimes it may appear every step of the way that there’s something going on, when in truth it’s just bad planning (e.g., accidents, lack of experience, and misinformed focus)? Sometimes the end result is the staff wondering why the project was initiated in the first place.
Perhaps the numbers aren’t fudged but, rather, there’s a misunderstanding about how to determine the proper numbers to begin with. Remember, in the public sector, there’s not the accountability one finds in the private sector, so maintaining a project that has no real purpose or end result can happen. Perhaps the spectrum you discussed (sinister plots on one end and innocent government “entrepreneurs” attempting ingenious projects on the other) does exist. However, don’t underestimate the middle of the spectrum that often is staff who don’t know any better!
Your editorial about municipal corruption in waste management contracts opens the door to Pandora’s box. Because of the lack of effective opposition in municipal politics, responsibility for “watchdogging” corrupt contracting practices falls largely with an alert media.
Obviously, it is the taxpayers which suffer when municipal corruption occurs because it means excessive public payments are being made. Taxpayers are being squeezed from all sides and municipal employees should not forget that they are being well paid to protect the interests of the taxpayers.
With the current trend of devolution, municipalities procure more goods and services. Because it’s difficult and costly to prosecute the perpetrators of corruption and to discourage corruption, municipalities should establish clear and transparent procurement procedures and adopt a zero tolerance policy.
Joe Kennedy, P.Eng.
WCI Wood Conversion Inc.
What a sad state of affairs where the lawyers rule. As if we don’t have enough of them screwing up the various levels of government. Now there’s having an editor’s copy edited, and removing details that could have made an interesting story, much more interesting. Try to slip a few more interesting things by them. I’ve been a member of the waste industry for years, and find the variety of characters and events absolutely fascinating.
In your editorial for the April/May issue, you write that the study of Charlottesville, Virginia calls the wisdom of user fees leading to waste reduction into question. I can cite you an example: Darlington County, South Carolina (population 61,900) has also implemented pay-as-you-throw. Turns out they reduced their waste by 65 per cent (base year 1993, reporting year 1997). I imagine there are hundreds of cities and counties that could contradict your case study. I think there is way too much evidence of its overall effectiveness for your editorial to be fair in its generalization or the slant (calling it a “scheme”) to fairly present the “other side” of the story. Your ameliorating comment, “There are some attractive aspects to user fees quite apart from their ability or inability to get people to reduce waste,” only helps save your editorial a little–paying fairly is important. At least 75 per cent of the point is in fact the great need for waste reduction.
Office of Solid Waste Reduction and Recycling
Columbia, South Carolina
Unfortunately, a reference in the article “Alberta’s Deposit-Refund System” (August/September issue) by Clarissa Morawski with regards to the cost of container recover at 0.8 cents per unit sold in Alberta is misleading. Using numbers in the sidebar, the 0.8 cents per container is the net cost to the manufacturer, not the cost to the consumer–the difference being the treatment of the unredeemed deposit. The cost to the consumer is 2.11 cents per container sold. I hope this will clarify the situation in Alberta.
President & General Manager
Alberta Beverage Container Recycling Corporation
…the author replies
I appreciate that some readers may find the per-container cost of 0.8 cents confusing. While you are correct in stating that the system is ultimately funded by the consumer, there are two kinds of consumers–those who choose to return their containers and those who do not. As you know, in Alberta those who do not (i.e., 20 per cent of containers purchased) contribute $9.9-million to the system. This “polluter pays” principle appropriately penalizes non-participants and provides an incentive for participation.
You’re also correct in pointing out that the 0.8 cents per container is the net cost to the manufacturer, and not the consumer. I have made the assumption that costs to manufacturers are ultimately passed on to the consumer. This is consistent with industry’s contention that the costs of producer responsibility programs are always passed on to the consumer.
Principal, CM Consulting