At least the rats and mice are happy

Here's a link to an incredible story on the recycling mandates imposed by the government on citizens in Sweden. The author (who is from Sweden) is currently studying for his PhD in Economics at the University of Missouri. While we don't know much about his other political and economic beliefs, his description of the exasperating system being forced upon his countrymen is a warning to those who think it could never happen outside of Scandinavia.

He describes the situation in Sweden, where putting out your "garbage" has now been eliminated and you must sort everything and put it into its own category (aluminum, non-aluminum metals, newsprint, other types of paper, colored glass, clear glass, plastics, and so on). You must also clean your own garbage so that it will be accepted, and even remove labels from your soup cans!

The waste collection companies have lowered the number of times they will collect, and the government has established waste collection centers where citizens have to take much of their trash in order to turn it in (properly sorted). The government's regulations have thus led to a mis-allocation of resources -- including, ironically, gasoline which is being used by citizens to drive their trash around town, instead of the more efficient situation in which one garbage truck picks up garbage for dozens or even hundreds of citizens.

Citizens are now complaining about the filth and the vermin (such as rats and mice) that go along with this forced recycling program. In a true free-market economy, a situation that made so many people unhappy would be a tremendous business opportunity for an entrepreneur who wanted to offer an alternative.

Of course, in Sweden, there is a government-imposed monopoly on the waste business. What's more, aspects of this inefficient and unpleasant situation could very easily be exported to the US. There are even many citizens here who (misguidedly) think that greater government regulation to force recycling would be a good thing.

The current state of affairs in Sweden should be a caution to those who think so. Government interference with the free market always leads to greater inefficiency and mis-allocation of resources. Of course, if an entrepreneur wanted to set up a business to make it easier and less expensive for people to sort and recycle their trash, and could show that they could save money on their garbage bill or even eliminate their garbage bill by doing so, then the entrepreneur should be allowed to do so.


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