Over-nudging in Whitehaven, England

This is why people dislike government. From the New York Times:

Threatened with steep fines if they dump too much trash, local governments around the country are imposing strict regimens to force residents to produce less and recycle more. Many now collect trash every other week, instead of every week. They restrict households to a limited amount of garbage, and refuse to pick up more. They require that garbage be put out only at strict times, reject whole boxes of recyclables that contain the odd non-recyclable item and employ enforcement officers who issue warnings and impose fines for failure to comply.

And when residents don’t comply, a “sticker of shame” is affixed to a resident’s garbage bin indicating a violation of garbage laws (ie. if a bin is left open). If governments are going to impose strict rules as a means to change behavior, they should create policies, technologies, or incentives to help people adapt. More rules, supported by harsher punishments, just anger citizens.

Tags: , ,

  • http://www.york-lgbt.org.uk Rubbish

    Right wing newspapers love to complain about rubbish disposal in the UK. Generally, they’re full of rubbish. The ‘paternalist’ systems work very well. Rubbish and recycling are collected on alternate weeks. Collecting more often than that is completely unnecessary and would be a waste of local government resources, which would be passed on as higher council tax. The bins provided easily take all of my family’s waste over two weeks, and despite the rubbish you read in the press, I’ve not heard of anyone who has ever been fined or run into any problems with the system. It probably makes it harder for people to get away with not recycling anything, but considering the very substantial costs local authorities face if they don’t meet EU waste reduction targets, that can only be a good thing.