Curbside Recycling & Energy Management: The Gov’s Latest Tools of Oppression

Fountain Hills, a master planned community of roughly 25,000 in the mountains northwest of Scottsdale, Arizona, has well-appointed (if homogenous) homes and public art and beautiful mountain vistas. With lots of park space and golf courses, it seems like a lovely place to live…except that the town government is launching a plot to start etching away at the resident’s freedoms, starting with their freedom to choose a garbage collector and their freedom to not recycle! That’s right, it’s Obamatrash!

OK, here’s what really happened: The town voted to award Allied Waste Services (part of Republic, the second largest waste management company in the country, after Waste Management) a five-year contract to become the single waste and recycling collector in Fountain Hills, which currently works with five different waste-collection services. None of these current services offer curbside recycling (or if, they do offer these services, they are not used in Fountain Hills, but Allied will collect recyclables, as well as yard waste, from residents’ homes.

Pointing to the elimination of multiple vendors for trash collection, two local Tea Party chapters have launched protest campaigns against the decision. Their chief compliant appears to be that Fountain Hills is taking away  ability to choose their own collection agency, but the groups have issued fliers that accuse the town government of becoming “Green Police” that are going to start punishing residents who fail to recycle. Seriously? I think it’s more like the town is trying to stick to its burgeoning commitment, which according to its website, consists of “scheduling ongoing recycling events, applying green requirements to residential and commercial development and is looking for new ideas to reduce our impact on the environment. The Town is also encouraging its citizens to be green and provides information to its residents and businesses on how to help.” So, well, fine, call it a green mafia.

But for the record, it’s very common for towns or counties to use single waste and/or recycling collection companies. Steve Averett, managing editor of Waste Age magazine, confirms this, noting that while the magazine doesn’t track any specific numbers on how often municipalities contract single versus multiple collection companies, more politically conservative areas tend to have multiple companies that residents choose from, because they tend not to want to pay the increased taxes associated with municipal collection.

Um, wait, big brother is watching…

But while the Tea Party pickets recycling efforts in AZ, perhaps its energy might be better spent here in Northern California, where an executive with Pacific Gas & Electric really did turn all big brother on a group of taxpayers! On Monday, William Devereaux, the senior director of PG&E’s already-embattled smart meter program managed to garner the program more bad PR when he admitted to using a false name and logging into a web group of citizens who are protesting the use of smart meters in California. He wanted to see what they were discussing. He admitted to the SF Chronicle that he’s likely done real damage by trying to infiltrate the group. I would say so.

Devereaux said he was trying to learn the protest groups’ point of view. Well, I can see the logic in that, but one can learn their complaints and concerns (most of which I find baseless or illogical or paranoid) by reading their websites and protests signs. If he wanted discourse with the groups, he should have used his real identity. All this move has done is bolster the notion that utilities want to install smart meters in our homes in our to spy on us.

Freelance writer Mary Catherine O'Connor finds that a growing number of companies are proving the ways that they can make good financially, socially and environmentally (as the triple bottom line theory suggests).With that in mind, she contributes to Triple Pundit, as well as to Earth2Tech and other pubs focused on sustainability. She also writes The Good Route, an Outside Magazine blog that addresses the intersection of sustainability and the active/outdoor life.To find out more, or to reach her, go to

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