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Flow control: How one man’s trash is another man’s…cronyism

Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed House Bill 56 over his opposition to its eliminating the Outer Banks bag ban and it not doing enough to protect rivers and streams, in his view (a view that somehow completely ignored the Cape Fear River “GenX” chemical cleanup and monitoring efforts, which the bill boosted).

The governor’s veto also preserved local government monopolies over solid waste management. It’s the sort of creeping cronyism that escapes most people’s notice even while it makes things more expensive for them.

Perhaps it escaped Cooper’s notice as well.

The bill description explains:

Prior law authorized units of local government, by ordinance, to require that all solid waste generated within the geographic area and placed in the waste stream for disposal, be delivered to a permitted solid waste management facility or facilities serving the geographic area. Such ordinances are often called “flow control” ordinances, which are provisions that allow state and local governments to designate the places where solid waste must be taken for processing, treatment, or disposal. Flow control ordinances are tools sometimes used by local governments to plan and fund solid waste management systems.

CarolinaCronyism
But they are also tools used to control competition:

Flow control can increase your solid waste management disposal expenses. A municipality can direct trash to a county-owned landfill where higher tipping fees are charged. This translates into more money for the municipality that is passed on to you in the form of higher trash disposal costs. …

The National Solid Waste Management Association (NSWMA) has identified the following concerns with flow control mandates:

  • Creates a monopoly for trash disposal.
  • Creates a hidden tax that makes trash disposal more expensive for residential and commercial customers.
  • Flow control does not help recycling.
  • As flow control causes waste costs to rise, these increased costs will be passed onto consumers in the form of higher prices.

At Waste Experts we have seen the impact of flow control on our customers. We recently received a notification from a local vendor that due to flow control mandates, the rates in Henderson County, North Carolina were going to increase by 28%!

This increase occurred because the county is directing waste from the current landfill that is operated by a private hauler, to the county municipal landfill which charges a higher tipping fee.

Unfortunately, once a county decides to enact flow control, there is nothing that can be done to prevent the trash disposal rates from increasing.

HB 56 would generally prevent that kind of behavior. Shutting out market competition and creating monopolies where they don’t belong acts like a hidden tax on families and local businesses.

Incidentally, in 2016 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency studied flow control and municipal waste management. The EPA concluded, with respect to environmental protection, that flow controls were really beside the point:

However, protection of human health and the environment is directly related to the implementation and enforcement of federal, state, and local environmental regulations rather than to the existence of flow control measures.

Jon Sanders / Director of Regulatory Studies

Jon Sanders studies regulatory policy, a veritable kudzu of invasive government and unintended consequences. As director of regulatory studies at the John Locke Foundation, Jo...

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