By John Hubbard, Outgoing Conservation Co-Chair.
The about 30 volunteers who came to the South Chickamauga Creek site Saturday, Oct 7th to cleanup for TN River Rescue 2017 did a heroic and first class job. A big dumpster 90 percent full and 78 tires are the testament to their hard work. Probably 95 percent of what was picked up was at the Lightfoot Mill Road put-in and only 5 percent was pulled from the river banks.
What a bummer to see all the trash at the put-in. A dead dog, two big TVs, three or four mattresses, and probably 5 or 6 pickup trucks of roofing shingles, and the usual ton of just plain trash. About 8 tires came from the river, maybe a dozen came from the put-in area we cleaned up, and the remaining 55 to 60 tires came from the road side not far from the put-in.
Why do people dump tires and roofing shingles in places like this put-in? It’s all about the incentives people have to do the right thing or not. Money is saved by not paying the tipping fee at a landfill to dump used shingles. Money is saved by pocketing the $3 disposal fee customers pay when they buy tires.
Until we get the incentives right, people will do the easy and or expedient thing to save money, stay out of the government radar, and maybe just because it’s easier. As the author William Easterly said in the book The Elusive Quest for Growth: Economists’ Adventures and Misadventures in the Tropics,’ people respond to incentives. And I say so do companies, governments, and all other organizations as his book so aptly shows, whether the incentives bring about good results or unintended and sometimes bad results.
Should tipping fees for construction materials be eliminated as one of the volunteers suggested? What about making the tire retail dealer pay the $3 disposal fee to the wholesaler and the retail dealer gets it back when they bring the tire to the dump?
Sure, the city could put up a high fence with a small gate big enough for a person and a boat to reach the putin but prevent trucks from backing in and dumping. But they will just go to some other remote road and dump. I’ll bet there are a thousand such places where shingles, tires, appliances, TVs and all other junk are dumped by people who have no incentive to do the right thing just in Hamilton County alone.
Just some thoughts after a very successful Tennessee River Rescue 2017 event. Thanks to all the TVCC members who came out, the 6 or 7 Girl’s Inc girls plus their leaders, two who came on bicycles, among others. Thanks to Michelle for organizing the project. Thanks to Ben for his big truck to haul off the tires, and wife Beth who handled logistics at sign in and check out and handed out the t-shirts everyone got.