Skip to comments.Economy: Landfills (and thrift stores) hurting as consumers repair, reuse
Posted on 04/26/2009 3:37:32 PM PDT by llevrok
Thrift-driven Americans are fixing up, making do and reusing so much to cope with the recession that the drop in throwaways means less fill for landfills.
To deal with the drop-off in dropoffs, landfills are laying off workers, reducing hours of operation and hiking disposal fees, with the increases passed along to cities, businesses and consumers.
"You can look at waste and see what the economy is doing," said Tom Houck, manager at the Defiance County Landfill in northwest Ohio. He's watched the amount of trash arriving at the landfill plunge 30 percent in the past year.
With consumers cutting back on new purchases, there is less packaging to throw away. The downturn in new housing means less waste from construction materials such as insulation and from discarded drywall and lumber. Restaurant waste is down because people are eating out less.
"We're seeing this all over the country," said Bruce Parker, president and CEO of the National Solid Wastes Management Association.
Environmentalists applaud the trash slash.
"That will mean the landfills will last longer," said Ed Hopkins, director of the environmental quality program for the Sierra Club. "That is good for the public because nobody likes to live next to a landfill."
Hopkins said the reduction in waste is good for the environment because even modern landfills can leak, enabling pollutants to seep into groundwater.
Thom Metzger, spokesman for the National Solid Wastes Management Association, said that while national figures won't be available for months, the association is hearing about the decline from many members.
Landfills in Ohio received 15 percent less waste from August to January than they did for the same period a year earlier. The waste stream at Miramar Landfill near San Diego has dropped 35 percent over the past year. Waste at Puente Hills Landfill near Los Angeles is down from 12,500 tons of trash a day to about 8,500.
About 82 temporary workers have been laid off at Puente Hills and its two sister landfills, shrinking the work force to about 280 and forcing permanent employees to take over traffic control, windy-day litter pickup and landscaping.
Several landfills operated by Waste Management Inc. - which runs about 270 active landfills in 47 states - have gone from operating six days a week to five or have reduced hours of operation, said spokeswoman Lisa Kardell.
Waste Management's fourth-quarter profit slid 29 percent on declines in its recycling business and one-time charges. But in its earnings report, the Houston-based company also mentioned declines in the collection of industrial waste.
Landfill operators rely on disposal fees to fund operations. If the amount of waste decreases, operators have to cut costs, dip into reserve funds or increase the fees, which are passed along to consumers.
In the Columbus suburb of Grove City, the Solid Waste Authority of Central Ohio landfill- with 10 percent less waste - has raised disposal fees by $2 a ton to $35.50 and dipped into its reserve fund. The landfill also is considering accepting trash from out of the district.
Potential trash is being sent to repair shops.
Louis Johnston, an economist at the College of St. Benedict in Collegeville, Minn., said that during good economic times people spend about 1 percent of their consumption budget on repairs. During recessions, that jumps to 5 percent.
When the ice maker in Maureen Schlangen's 12-year-old refrigerator went kaput, she didn't have the fridge hauled to a landfill. The woman went back to ice trays, buying two for $1.50 apiece and borrowing a Mickey Mouse tray from a neighbor in the Dayton suburb of Kettering.
When Janet Bittner's 5 wood came apart, the Appleton, N.Y., resident borrowed a Phillips screwdriver from her brother and repaired the golf club instead of throwing it away.
At the Computer Zoo in the Dayton suburb of Miami Township, servicing of used computers is up 25 percent. And what normally was a customer wait of five to seven business days has become as long as 13.
"People don't have the kind of money to spend buying a new system when they can repair their old stuff for like half the cost," said Dan Seidl, purchasing manager.
People are shopping more at thrift stores but donating less.
Sales at the 2,220 Goodwill Industries International stores in the United States and Canada that have been open for at least a year were up 7.2 percent in February over February 2008.
"While the number of donors is increasing or remaining the same, we are seeing the two-bag donor now bringing in only one bag," said spokeswoman Lauren Lawson.
The Goodwill operation in Washington, D.C., has started appealing for donations in talks at schools, businesses and civic groups. It is sending trucks out to pick up donated items instead of waiting for the goods to be brought to stores or pickup points.
If Schlangen and Bittner are any indication, Goodwill has its work cut out for it.
Bittner extends the life of her shoes by sometimes putting slippers on at the office. Schlangen has learned to live without an automatic ice maker.
"In times like these, our culture is moving toward making do with what we have," she said. "And an ice maker is a luxury."
T-minus how long until some socialist supporting clown will use this “story” to say this:
If we didn’t have capitalism we wouldn’t have so much stuff and so many landfills wouldn’t have been filled in which release methane which have been causing temperatures to rise due to it being one of the ways man, undoubtedly, has been causing global warming...
We need to bail out the landfill industry...put a TARP over the dump.
Your post was a breath of fresh air, thank you.
Well, I’ve taken coffee makers apart and cannibalized them to make a good working one. Whenever possible, I repair instead of replace.
My dishwasher was leaking so I had to pull the motor and the pump to redo the seal, works like a charm now. That was kind of a fascinating exercise because the pumps on them are bi-directional, if the motor spins one way, it pumps water into (through) the system, and if the motor spins in the other direction, then it pumps the water out of the system!
But you are right. I would guesstimate that 95% of the time when something breaks, your average Joe (or Jill) doesn’t have the time or inclination to fix it, even assuming they knew how..
I would have taken the carb off but it had oddball fittings that would strip if I did anything but use the special tool that I didn't have for it. Putting the float bowl back on and aligned right took a few tries but I got it. I also remembered why I don't like working on carbs of any kind. I really don't know where to get a hold of something like that. It is a Briggs Stratton which I am 99% sure.
I was never the greatest small engine guy in the world but the old generator starts right up. There is a tiny bit of slack in the cord. The oil pressure safety switch is apparently defective on some models like mine. It will run fine for about 45 minutes or so then start to stumble and almost shutdown and then it will come right back. I need to track down a replacement switch.
Maybe when the surgeon releases me this Friday hopefully I can get back to doing stuff around here. I feel so much better overall than before going in. My gall bladder blew out on me recently and I had the first real surgery of my life. Looking back it may have been giving me problems for a very, very long time. At least I have become reacquainted with Bonanza and Gunsmoke. Favorites of my Grandfather.
i sure remember those days. always wished i had spent more time with my dad learning stuff i could use in my days without him and mom.
My wood shop taught some basic 110 home electrical and one guy already worked with his dad a lot and knew how to do a lot. He impressed us and the teacher too. This was 7th grade. Auto Mech was 9-12 and I was perfectly happy in there. I hated the rest of the high school racket.
It's funny. I have been repairing industrial equipment for almost thirty years. I fix everything. I fix things that others would throw away. It's really hard for me to understand NOT trying to fix something.
But...why don't you want a buggy piece of spyware masquerading as an operating system?
HA....our 1+ year old washing machine QUIT the other day....I couldn’t figure out why.....it just wouldn’t start and go past the first phase....so, I got on the Internet, and did a little research. In the end I found a HINT at a POSSIBLE problem, removed the top so I could reach some things (and unplugged it!).....eventually I wiggled some things. Tried it...and VOILA!, it worked!
This Internet thingy is great! And, I’m a 58 yr old woman...sure impressed my husband by saving a call to a “repair guy” who would have charged probably $75 just to show up.
Ya, the Internet thingy knows everything. That's why I have it instead of TV. It's our humor, our online EVERYTHING resource, entertainment, best friend, and puppy. I pet and feed the modem every morning until it's tail wags.
Monopolists don’t operate under the law of supply and demand. Our garbage rates go up every time the waste stream goes down. Rates really jumped when they started the “free” recycling program 20 years ago. We raised our family of three kids with only one trash can every week due to that program.
I hate carbs... But I can fix one if I have too...
Don’t know about gallbladder surgery, but an ACL replacement/Meniscus sew-up/ MCL sew-up is not very fun either. I have a new respect for ice packs!
Rebuilt a 2 barrel carb about four times on my old Chevy Vega, back in the day. That thing never did work right at idle. Drip, drip, sputter, sputter.
One rule of thumb I have been able to remember is running a mixture screw in to close and back out 1 1/2 turns to be close. The little 2100 on my 304 has one mixture screw that is a real pain to adjust without one of those flexible screwdrivers.
A blown gall bladder is a special brand of misery. Abdominal pain on par with a kidney stone, turning very yellow/orange all over, dark brown urine, and an overall since of misery.
I can also handle most basic plumbing, electrical, and some carpentry. A lot of my limitations come from a tools budget standpoint or something that takes two bodies. However, I do know what I can and can't get away with. In those can't situations, I know to call somebody.
I did my part on Earth Day to help the economy and keep people employed. I threw away a couple aluminum cans in the trash while at work.
I help keep the Bauxite miners, aluminum smelters, and landfill personnel with jobs.
Would some idiot actually throw away a working refrigerator just because the icemaker broke?
You got it and....good for you. Gotta watch out for us 58 and OLDER (like me) ladies. :)
Well, I’m sure you learned much more than you ever realized just by being in the house and not hanging out with anyone inparticular. That’s how we all learn...watching, examples etc. We DID learn lots from our parents when they taught us and then we learned lots from them just by being around them. That’s what parents are for. Today? Not so much because so many work. It’s a crying shame but...guess I’m just old fashioned and would rather do with less yet have so much more. :)