Data for trash

I’m hoping we are 10 years away from when you dump your trash into various trash cans for different purposes (recycling, compost, etc.) and wait to get your trash rating.

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The trash rating would come from scanners in these cans which can detect if you did the right thing. For example, they’d be able to tell if the compost level went down from 100% to 98% and, with data on the change of weight, the approximate amount of non-compost material you dumped. You would have scanned in your home’s card or ID number to get to the trash room. So, bad garbage dumping would have an effect on your overall trash adherence rating.

The trash adherence rating wouldn’t be all that different from a credit rating. In this world, it would have 2 important consequences –
1. Your adherence rating would be known when you file for a job and when you apply to buy/rent a house. Employers and house owners would want to keep their average adherence ratings down.
Why? Glad you asked..
2. A poor adherence rating would mean higher taxes. The rationale is straightforward – the poorer your adherence rating, the more work for garbage collectors and sorters and the worse the externalities for society. To make sure the tax incidence is progressive, we could target a part of the funds into lower income households while ensuring incidence is much higher on higher income folks.

Given what we know about our human penchant for not acting till we absolutely have to, maybe the linkage of our trash data and taxes are a bit far fetched. Hopefully, the rest isn’t though. I’d love to see home data for trash and energy use, for example. Just seeing the data and being able to compare our usage with local/global averages could go a long way in reducing pollution and energy waste.

2 thoughts on “Data for trash

  1. Love the outside-the-box idea. We as a people certainly needs to come up with strategies to incentivize trash reduction and recycling. However, I’d like to play Devil’s Advocate for a moment here. I feel that such drastic changes always tend to have unintended consequences. What if people found the policy so hard to follow that they started littering, dumping garbage outside? I’m reminded of the instance when Ireland introduced the pay-by-weight trash charges, which totally backfired: http://freakonomics.com/2007/06/06/the-unintended-consequences-of-new-trash-rules/. What are your thoughts?

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    1. Very true. The hard problems are hard to solve. There’s no getting away from it.

      I’d rather we begin having the conversations and experiments though!

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