Monday, December 29, 2014

Did I shirk my civic duty by leaving my hot water heater on the street?

Many cities, Ontario included, provide recycling services along with trash services.

They do not do this out of the goodness of their hearts.

One benefit to the cities is that stuff that goes into the recycling bin doesn't have to go to the landfill. Another benefit is that the cities can actually sell the stuff that goes into the recycling bins, and get a little bit of revenue in the process.

Most of us, of course, think of ourselves before we think of our cities. When you finish drinking that soft drink, how many of you throw that can or bottle into a city recycling bin? You probably don't; instead, you keep the can or bottle for yourself, turn in the cans yourself, and get the nickels yourself. There are a few people, of course, who do throw their cans or bottles into the city bins, but the city may not get them, since there are people who roam the streets the night before a scheduled trash pickup, go through your recycling bins, and extract anything of value.

But there are other ways in which we cheat the city.

A little over a week ago, I noticed some water in my garage, between my mini-refrigerator and my washing machine. I didn't see any leaks from the washing machine or the refrigerator, so I didn't think much of it...until the next night, when the water was still there, and I noticed another puddle of water outside the small area where our water heater sits. Yes...our water heater was leaking. So we shut off the gas and the water and started figuring out how to replace it. 1 1/2 days (and one very cold shower) later, the new water heater was installed, and the old water heater was ready for disposal.

Last Friday, I took my old water heater out to the curb, but I didn't call the city to arrange for a bulky pickup. The city allows for bulk pickups; it's even part of the municipal code.

It should be noted that by placing this article on the street several days before a scheduled trash pickup, I committed a code violation.

Sec. 6-3.308. Residential receptacles, placement.

(a) Residential refuse, recycling, green waste or other organics receptacles shall be placed for collection by 6:00 a.m. on the scheduled collection day, but not prior to the evening preceding the collection day. Receptacles shall be removed no later than the evening after collection day....

(c) If the provisions of this section are not fully complied with, the solid waste collector shall place a tag indicating a violation on the container.

Well, I did not receive a violation tag - for two reasons. First, I didn't put the item in a container, so there was no container to place the tag. Second, the city didn't have any time to tag it, because within a few hours of my placement of the old water heater on the curb, it was gone.

Perhaps you've seen the trucks that go up and down city streets, especially on weekends or just before trash pickup day. Those trucks are filled with all sorts of metal - old bicycles, old appliances, and the like. The trucks go up and down the streets, looking for additional scrap metal, and then take a truckload of stuff to a recycling center and get some small amount of money for it.

So when I put my old water heater on the curb on Friday afternoon, I figured that the scrap fairies would come by some time over the weekend, and my water heater would magically vanish. And I was right.

Now one could argue that the scrap fairies and I were cheating the city of Ontario out of some potential revenue. And one could also argue that the guys with the shopping carts who dig through your recycle bins are cheating the city of Ontario out of some potential revenue.

But then again, every one of us who saves cans and bottles and turns them in ourselves for the cash is also cheating the city of Ontario out of some potential revenue.

For additional thoughts on this, including the difference (if any) between going through a personal recycling bin or a corporate recycling bin, check this Jeffrey Seglin post.

And in some cases, the police get involved.

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