Prudence Nonsense

Had some fun on the Twitter the other night during the Saskatoon City Council. The regular #yxecc Twitterers were out in full force, as usual, and were all a-flutter over the motion by Councillors Donauer and Heidt to sole-source the recycling for multi-family buildings to Cosmo Industries. (I know. This is what gets these guys off apparently.)

One of the regulars to this regular Twit-fest is our own Sean Shaw, candidate for our own city council’s ward 4 and our own recycling enthusiast. He’s been hostile toward Cosmo’s bids to stay in the city’s recycling game for some time — God knows why, maybe he wants Cosmo’s intellectually disadvantaged workforce to stay at home and do crafts or something — and he continued his attack the other night (with the following posts excerpted from the ongoing conversation):

Because recycling is such a prudent use of funds, right? I mean, instead of just dumping all our junk into one place, we will instead drive twice as many trucks to pick up the same junk and deliver some of it to that one place and the rest to other places. Makes sense to him.

So I challenged him on this:

Shaw confirms his concern over fiscal prudenciousness:

My retort:

Me again:

Another #yxecc Twitterer and my former student government colleague Jeff Jackson speaks up:

I don’t think Jeff understands my rationale, but I humour him:


And Shaw:

Shaw’s big beef is that he believes we won’t be able to site a new waste facility. Fair enough. That still doesn’t take away the need for a new one.


Shaw’s answer:

I missed this answer because I was doing dishes:

My bad:

JJ thinks he remembers that it will save 20 years:

and Shaw plays the victim card:

But I got him now:

You see, dear reader, I took these numbers from the 2007 Saskatoon Waste and Recycling Plan upon which the city administration rested its case to adopt a mandatory city-wide recycling program. The Plan sits right on the city’s website and, as far as I can tell, constitutes the basis of the ongoing discussion to this very day. It’s long, but it’s filled with plenty of white space and pretty photos and all the math is kept to the back so the Greenies don’t get scared and run away.

Phase 1 of the plan includes the implementation of an “incentive-based tipping fee” at the dump,  banning cardboard and paper dumping, and building a community compost heap. The second phase is the construction of a used building material facility at the dump as well to develop a “recyclables processing facility”, which is where we are today. Phase 3 would include developing an “organics management facility” as well as a facility to handle construction and demolition waste.  This final phase is the big one, as organics are the chief contributor to landfill from residents, while construction debris is the biggest net contributor from commercial enterprise.

The key data here is from Table 5: Projected Maximum Investment and Benefits Summary, which I tried to reproduce below:

Forget capital costs of building the plants and such as we’ll assume that’s provided by private contractors. At phase 3, the super-duper mandatory household-organics-construction-waste program was estimated to cost taxpayers roughly $7.5 million per year. Savings to our landfill based on the diverted waste was estimated to be $1.8 million. Combining these two figures creates a net loss to taxpayers of roughly $5.6 million per year.

“Ah”, you say, “But it’s the land. La-a-a-a-and!!” Yeah, well, the report estimates that up to 73% of all waste will be diverted from the dump. Administration is pegging the time for replacing the landfill at 20 years, as you can see from Table 6: Replacement Landfill Cost Scenarios.

Remember from above where Shaw said “throw in organics and it is indefinite”? The diversion of waste would make enough room to take us to 35 years before we replace the facility, or a net savings of 15 years. That’s not “indefinite”. That’s 15 years.

But the landfill would have be replaced anyways. It’s going to fill up, despite Shaw’s wildest fantasies. There’s no reason why a landfill would cost more (in 2007 dollars) 20 years down the road than 35 years, unless the value of the dollar rapidly declines in that time period. Therefore, the biggest savings comes from the extra 15 years of saving up the capital to be used toward a new facility. Table 6 helpfully provides us with that figure: -$500,000 per annum, give or take.

Subtract that half a million from our earlier figure, and we see a net loss of $5.1 million per year until the life of the new facility. And then we’ll lose some more.

(NOTE: The report is careful to point out that their cost estimations are maximized, and would likely be lower. Fair enough, especially because governments are notorious for developing projects ahead of time and under budget. But the net costs of the program are 10 times of the savings due to advanced capital accumulation, so even if you cut the costs in half, we still lose and lose big.)

No wonder the administration is so eager to use “triple-bottom-line accounting” in this report. Just plain, ol’ normal, legitimate accounting would show us just how much of a boondoggle this is.

Shaw doesn’t seem to understand my concern:


(That’s not entirely accurate. The bigger saving, as I indicated above, is from the shortened period of capital socked away for the new facility.)

Shaw doesn’t get me:

No, the $100 million is the net cost of the program alone over 20 years (without subtracting the savings from financing the new facility). The many additional  millions for a new landfill would be spent no matter what:

As you can see here, we’re starting to get mixed up in what the cost of a new landfill is, ($100 million or whatever) but it doesn’t matter what it costs as it pertains to this discussion on “fiscal prudence”. My point is that we will have to pay for one whether we want to or not.


Does Shaw actually agree that this program will cost us $101 million over 20 years for a total savings of $10 million?

It’s like arguing with a skipping record.

These guys are so committed they don’t even read their own propaganda. Read the 2007 report, Shaw. You can say it’s good for the earth, world, yadda yadda, but don’t tell me that this is a fiscally responsible path.

Sure, the Cosmo path is no better and probably would cost more, but at least Heidt, Donauer and the mayor get it — their job is to help those who can’t help themselves. All a mandatory recycling program will do is subsidize the comfortable middle class who are already recycling off the backs of those who don’t, mainly the poor.

It’s a garbage program (pun not intended) based of Green ideological bullshit, and those who promoted it should be held to account, especially if they mean to run for public office.

  1. #1 by paul in calgary on June 2, 2012 - 5:46 am

    good job just went through thishere in airdrie and recycling got a big fat no!!

  2. #2 by Rob Huck on June 2, 2012 - 11:18 pm

    It’s a battle of attrition, and only the most committed will emerge. Keep fighting.

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