Waste Control

Interesting article in the WSJ on the competition between waste truckers and railroad companies for business from local governments. As Reason has pointed out before, there are lots of contract controls that ensure private delivery is safe. However, this shows that there is a cost to this.

Mr. Celli’s facility in Garfield, N.J., compiles and transfers garbage bags of household waste, tree limbs and other debris to long-haul trucks headed to Pennsylvania landfills. His company, a subsidiary of Highstar Waste Holding Corp., a closely held company based in Sloatsburg, N.Y., must comply with requirements set by state and local authorities. Those rules cover such matters as odor control, water runoff and background checks for connections to organized crime. Mr. Celli says complying with those and other rules costs him money that his rival doesn’t have to spend. … Mr. Celli’s frustration stems from a dust-up in the waste industry that’s pitting established companies against a new breed of competitor. In recent years, small railroads known as short lines have begun setting up facilities for collecting, sorting and packing mainly construction debris into gaping 100-ton rail cars. Under longstanding federal law, railroads big and small are exempt from zoning ordinances and other state and local regulations that could hinder interstate commerce. But as landfills have consolidated over the last 20 years, densely populated Northeastern states increasingly are exporting their waste to the Midwest and Southeast. Railroads have become a conduit for moving the stuff long distances; the number of rail cars hauling waste has grown almost 40% since 2000, according to the Association of American Railroads.

While the competition for local garbage contracts is surely a good thing, if this only occurs because of government exemptions that apply to specific industries at the cost of safety controls in contracts I’m not sure if the ends justify the means.