While I agree with Christine's remarks about market rates, etc, I think of garbage removal as a public good. In New York City, where I live, the garbage has to be picked up or public health would be endangered in a very short period of time. Think 13,000 tons of residential garbage every day.
We certainly have more than our share of free riders. Commercial entities dump their garbage everywhere rather than pay to have it disposed of. Because garbage pick-up is thought of as a public good, it makes it much harder to teach residents basic concepts of waste reduction and recycling. As an environmental educator, I have sometimes secretly yearned for a good garbage strike so residents could see the nature of the problem.
Regarding recycling, because so many of the benefits are avoided costs, I would consider recycling collection a public good as well. Many people don't value those costs and would rather not be bothered with recycling. But the City does see the avoided costs, provides the service, and expects residents to comply - like stopping at traffic lights, paying taxes, etc.
Perhaps we are in a transition from public good to service. I think the environment would be better served if we could make that transition.
More comments, anyone?
I'm always looking to make sure people understand that recycling - just like
garbage disposal is not a public good - but a public service that has associated
As always, I appreciate your comments!