SADOW: Waste Disposal Follies A Perfect Example Of Why Shreveport Is Stuck

Just when you think Shreveport can commit more stupidity in its waste disposal policies, its politicians raise the ante to the detriment of its economic development.

This week, its City Council took the first step towards hiring a new contractor for its troubled curbside recycling program. From its start over a decade ago, the effort that supposedly would save the city a little coin and make a significant impact in reducing landfill use hardly did either, while charging compulsorily every household $2.50 a month whether each sorted garbage accordingly. The city also ponied up roughly $3 million for collection bins, which only last a few years so it continues to pay out this.

Fate intervened to put a stop to this nonsense at least temporarily last fall. The longtime handler – who once had said it could make the city some money off the items only to abandon the idea – got out of the business and the city halted the program and the extra fee. It then sought a new processor, which took a couple of tries and nine months to find someone to collect and deal with recyclables. Fortunately, the city had the good sense to suspend fee collection throughout this period.

Now, the comedy of errors will resume as the Council approved a firm with zero experience in this task. It doesn’t even have the equipment necessary as yet, and even when it does it will end up hauling everything 75 miles away into Texas, which according to its schedule won’t begin for months to come. Worse, one of its references, Republican state Rep. Thomas Pressly, said the city never contacted him about the firm, which he would have panned. Whether the company can do this for $1.9 million a year for the next five years or if it suddenly will walk away in finding its cost too high is debatable.

It’s quite a gamble – and expense to residents – to take just to stretch the city’s landfill life a few more months. Except another imperative is in play here working at a cross-purpose – the city also wants to force commercial waste-haulers in the city to use its landfill.

An ordinance actually requires this, but firms widely have flaunted it by trucking such waste to DeSoto Parish’s landfill, which handles Bossier City and Parish waste among other governments’. Across all categories of waste DeSoto’s typically charges less than Shreveport’s. That probably helps explain in part why fees collected from commercial haulers at Shreveport’s have fallen from $1.7 million to $1 million over the past five years.

The city appears fed up with this and at the meeting also put in motion hiring counsel specifically to start enforcing the requirement that commercial refuse collected in the city to go to its landfill. Presumably, the quarter of collections in fees it will pay it hopes it will more than make up for in $500 fines collected for violators and in business forced away from DeSoto and towards its landfill.

Which, of course, is the shortsighted approach. If haulers end up paying higher fees, these mostly get passed on to commercial establishments, which then pass on much of these to consumers. Prices go up and economic activity decreases as a result, a calculus Shreveport policy-makers historically have had a difficult time grasping which has caused its long-standing bottom-shelf economy.

In both cases, instead of coercive regulation – forcing residents to pay for a useless program and consumers to fork over more needlessly – Shreveport should halt its intrusion into citizens’ lives. Jettison the recycling program and rescind the ordinance to let market forces prevail, and count these as a small step towards improving the city’s abysmal economic development profile.

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