Friday, May 7, 2010

Big Brother is Watching ... Your Recycling

My family and I are big proponents of recycling, and we have tried very hard to instill that sense of responsibility in our two children. Taking our aluminum, paper, glass and plastic and putting it on the curb every Thursday evening is second nature to us, and hopefully the kids will continue to do this as they get older.

Part of what makes it rewarding is that we do it voluntarily - the county provided the bins, and we have put them to use. What if the circumstances were different, however? What if we were forced to recycle?

Think this is implausible? Well, think again.

In today's edition of the Washington Examiner, reporter Markham Heid discussed a new plan by the city of Alexandria, Virginia, to begin including built-in monitoring prices in new, larger recycling bins. Every resident will have a mandatory $9 increase on their annual trash pickup fee to pay for the new containers, ranging from 25 to 65 gallons (although folks have the option of keeping their current bins). The devices will enable city officials to track who is participating in the recycling program and who is not, and according to environmental director Rich Baier to will enable them to target those who are lagging with direct mail and outreach campaigns.

To me this, smacks of a little bit of Big Brother. Again, we gladly recycle - but having a city (and we don't live in Alexandria) government charge taxpayers more in order to have the funding to put tracking devices out on the streets is a bit disconcerting. Mr. Baier claims the program is to find the folks who aren't participating and bring the city closer to its target of 35 percent participation (from its current 25 percent), but how do we know the information obtained through these means won't be used for something else? The short-term objective may be legitimate, but programs like this can always be "modified" for other things...

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