In order to enhance the Community journey toward a more sustainable and higher volume recycling reality, the following terms will be helpful in our ongoing communication.
Consumer Material: Any tangible material which has or had a monetary value. Example: A lawnmower.
Positive Value Material: This value is the price you paid to buy the lawnmower. For sake of illustration, let’s say you bought the mower new for $100.
Illustration you have used the mower for awhile and are ready to buy a new one. The old one still runs OK, but is missing one wheel and the blades are dull. Selling it for a few dollars is not worth the time and expense of finding a new buyer. Then your handyman neighbor says he can find a wheel and repair the blades and would keep it as a back up mower. He is not motivated
to pay for it, so you give it to him. No money changes hands. The mower has reached neutral value.
Negative Value Material: Continuing this illustration, the handyman neighbor repairs and uses the lawnmower. A while later it barely runs anymore and his teenager accidentally backs the car over it. Time to throw it away. The cost of discarding it is the negative value. Setting it at the curb triggers a $10 service fee plus $5 excess trash fee from the garbage company. Thus the positive value was $100, the neutral value was $0, and the negative value is $15. The $15 pays all the costs of running the garbage truck, plus the administration of doing so. Further, it pays its proportional share of running the landfill.
Avoided Cost Value: It is probably most convenient to pay the $15 curbside cost, but you might consider a responsible recycler taking the mower away. At that point you just avoided a cost of $15. Say the recycler can salvage or reuse only some of the mower and has to pay to dispose of the un-recyclable parts. He might take the old mower if you split your avoided cost with him.
At this point everyone except the garbage truck company and landfill owners are ahead. You are ahead by $7.50 because you paid only half the $15 disposal fee to the reclycler. The recycler is ahead because he was paid enough to dispose of the un-recyclable portion, plus enough to process the recyclable portions especially when combined with the money he is paid for the recyclables. His worker is paid from the proceeds and thus has a job. The consumer is ahead in a way that is hard to measure financially: satisfaction in doing something to help the community environment. Mother Nature has a smile you helped create. We have no idea how to quantify that.
Point of Interest
The people of our Anchorage community collectively pay at least $125,000 and more likely $150,000 every day to make material go away. That is the daily total of negative value and covers the cost of garbage collection and transport. It also covers the cost of the landfills and other disposal options. The total annual cost is a minimum of $45,625,000. When you consider that
recent actions taken by our Anchorage administrators will raise that cost by 1/3 with only symbolic increases in recycling, and that all this cash and political capital is concentrated in the hands of only a few people, you realize at least two things: 1) There is a vested interest in keeping the very inefficient existing system going, and 2) there is also tremendous opportunity to increase recycling while lowering disposal costs once we as community break up the concentrated power.