Live free or die trying

New Hampshire, the state in which I live and work, is an interesting little place.

Aug 1st, 2006

New Hampshire, the state in which I live and work, is an interesting little place. Its motto is “Live free or die.” Over the years, I have heard several interpretations of that motto, and I believe it represents individual freedom, particularly as opposed to government interference.

We’re called “tax-free New Hampshire” by our neighbors in Massachusetts because the state imposes no sales tax. There’s also no income tax in New Hampshire. So, how does the state reel in revenues? Anyone who has ever paid even one property tax bill here will tell you that my state most definitely is not “tax-free.”

But even with significant property taxes, the state bears the burden of comparatively low revenues. For example, public kindergarten is not mandatory. The 2005-2006 academic year was the first in which my hometown offered public kindergarten. Until then, local parents had the choice of sending their children to private kindergarten on their own dime, or letting them enter first grade without any prior formal classroom instruction.

Another service that is common in many parts of the country but not up here in the Granite State is curbside trash collection. Some municipalities here tax their residents and contract for the service; others leave it up to the residents to do it themselves or make accommodations. By now, you should not be surprised to learn that my town does not offer trash pickup. So, that’s where my town stands today: kindergarten, yes; trash, no. As a resident, I enjoy the freedom of no government interference in the manner in which I remove waste from my property-provided, of course, it is not illegally dumped.

In the years in which neither kindergarten nor trash pickup were town services, private enterprises providing one or the other were established and flourished. And even now that public kindergarten is available, some parents continue to send children to private kindergarten.

But I really want to talk about trash. (What did you expect?) For several years, I have paid a private hauler to collect the trash at my curb weekly. Shortly after I started using this contractor, I heard an allegation that he commingled the recyclable material with the trash, and dumped it all in the local landfill. For a few weeks, I watched at the window as the hauler threw the trash bags deep into his truck, and placed the recyclables closer to the edge, presumably so he could more easily separate them at the landfill/recycle center. But was that move just for show? Short of following this man to the landfill and watching what he did, I asked him what his policy was. When he told me, absolutely, he recycled, what could I do but believe him?

This year, the trash contractor put an end to the speculation when he began rolling separate trucks to each of his customers’ homes. The first one picks up the recyclables and the second picks up the trash. Case closed. But something interesting happened recently. My latest bill for removal services included a 20% price increase. This service provider is rolling twice as many trucks now, and I’m sure the price of fuel as well as wear-and-tear on his vehicles merits some kind of increased revenue on his part.

It must have been fortunate coincidence that I got this higher bill as I was in the midst of compiling the article on cable recycling for this issue (page 19). After getting stonewalled by many of the people with whom I hoped to talk for the article, it finally dawned on me: Not many are enthusiastic about the idea.

Recycling puts people out. It can be inconvenient. It costs more people more money. If every one of my trash hauler’s customers just threw the cans, bottles, and papers in with the rest of their trash, he could pick it up, dump it all in one place, and we’d all be done with it. But even in a state where 15 school districts offer no public education to five-year-olds, that wouldn’t cut it.

So, what happens when old cable gets taken out of a building? Does it get separated? If so, how? And who, ultimately, is going to pay for the labor involved? These questions are not rhetorical. I really would like to know, and I welcome your experiences as well as your opinions on this issue.

PATRICK McLAUGHLIN
Chief Editor
patrick@pennwell.com

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