Recently, I made a trip to the Wachusett Earthday Inc. Wachusett Watershed Regional Recycling Center for the first time. One of my neighbors has mentioned that she goes there to recycle all the plastic that is not acceptable for curbside recycling. Also, I saw that they were having a shredding day. So, off I went with many boxes of confidential information for shredding. I anticipated that I might not be able to shred all this stuff since it contained paper clips and there were SO many boxes.
To my surprise, not only did the entire thing take less than a minute, it took the longest time to get the boxes out of the car and dumped into the receptacle. My enthusiasm for the shredding process was evident and the attendant let me view the shredder through a TV screen. I watched my stuff get dumped in and disappear into the teeth of the shredder truck! In no time at all, everything was gone. My expectations were totally exceeded!! I love this place!
Next I visited the ReUse area, where you can drop off items (some for a fee) and take anything you like. We met the lovely lady who sorts all the unused greeting cards that people drop off. A pile of greeting cards that looks like trash turns into an aisle of a store where you can find just the kind of card you need and everything is free!
This whole experience made me think about graduate school. One of my graduate school advisors is the author of The Deadweight Loss of Christmas. In simple terms, if I buy you a gift worth $100 and you like it about $50 worth (you would have bought it at that price), then there is a $50 loss in value as a result of this allocative inefficiency. I should have just given you $100 and then you are happier by $100 (there is no deadweight loss for cash gifts).
When I think about the ReUse area, the opposite is true. I might leave some things there because they are worth nothing to me. I may even pay a fee to get rid of an item. Individuals who “shop” at the ReUse area may be willing to pay some money for these items, or they may just want them because they are free. Either way, the allocation of these items is improved. There may even be a deadweight gain (BONUS!) from this reallocation if someone was in the market for an item and found it for free. It’s hard to quantify, but there is no doubt that it beats throwing things in the dumpster!
Definitely check out the Wachusett Recycling Center if you live in one of the seven towns it serves: Boylston, Holden, Paxton, Princeton, Rutland, Sterling, and West Boylston. Next shredding day is December 1st – protect your identity and shred!