Prices Now Higher at the South Austin Dump

by Steve Crossland, REALTOR in Austin TX on November 9, 2009 · 23 comments

I made a trip to the south Austin dump this weekend. Aside from my own personal small dump load that I had from my recent garage cleanup, I had a small amount of debris that I had tossed into the back of my truck from one of my rental properties. Just some scrap lumber and a piece of sheetrock. So it was time for a trip to one of my favorite destinations, the dump in South Austin.

When I arrived, I learned unfortunately that the minimum dump fee for a pickup truck is now $35, and the “unsecured load” penalty is now $20. That means, if you toss a few things in your truck and take them to the dump, and you don’t have a tarp handy with tie-downs (even if the items are heavy items that could not blow out) to cover/secure your load, you’re looking at a minimum $55 disposal fee, even for just one broken kitchen sink (if it’s uncovered). Ouch. If memory serves me, it wasn’t that long ago that I paid about $9-$12 for a dump load. The unsecured load fee was previously $5, so $20 represents a 400% increase in that fee. What has the world come to when it costs this much to get rid of a few things?

Since I have a Commercial Account at the dump, I told the attendant I would just drive up on the scale (which use to be cheaper). She informed me that the minimum commercial load is now $35/ton with a 2 ton minimum, so minimum $70 on the scales plus the unsecured load fine = $90. This, to dispose of a piece of sheetrock, about 10 pieces of scrap lumber, and some misc household stuff. All totaled, about 1/4 of a pickup truck load. I elected to pay the civilian price.

Those of us who manage rental properties and who make regular repairs to properties are going to feel this price sting as our vendors, who regularly dispose of broken things and other stuff, are going to have to raise prices to us. In the move-out letter I send all tenants, I expressly warn against leaving junk piled at the street or left-over stuff in the garage, and inform them there will be a haul-off fee if they do that. Most tenants do in fact leave some stuff to haul off anyway, and then complain about the charge. Now that fee will be even higher and I need to edit my move-out letter to reflect that, and the tenants will be even madder when they see the charge, which increases my chances of getting sued over deposit refunds. Swell.

But, as our do-gooder government, which caused these fee hikes through new regulations and fee increases (the politically expedient way of raising taxes without calling it a tax increase), fails to understand, another result of these ridiculous fees will be a huge increase in illegal dumping and the further financial squeezing of the average middle class citizen.

I own some vacant lots and have had trash and junk dumped on them. Typically it’s a small pile of construction debris, brush or tires. Sometimes junk furniture or trash. People dump this stuff because they can’t afford to go to the dump, or they’re too lazy to properly dispose of the stuff. Tires have an expensive “$7 recycling fee” associated with them, so ever since that law was passed many years ago, the instance of old tires being dumped had already increased. Now the problem of illegal dumping will most certain increase, as will the resultant pollution. Way to go big brother.

This is exactly the sort of regressive tax that meddling government do-gooders claim to be against, but which they in fact impose in the name of environmental progress. From where do they think the stuff brought to the dump comes? It ain’t from our upper end folks driving out to the dump in an Escalade to dispose of broken china and worn out pool furniture. I haven’t seen any businessmen smudging their tie out there lately as they toss a broken Herman Miller out the back of a trailer.

No, this stuff comes from small contractors and middle class home owners and renters who just need to get rid of ordinary household junk and construction debris. Joe Sixpack can probably handle $12-$25 in dump fees for the annual spring cleaning load, but $55 is going to be sticker shock. And the fly-by-night contractors that the price-point-obsessed American consumer hires to redo the bathroom or rebuild a fence are now going to view dump fee avoidance as an easy cost-cutting measure when things are tight. Your remodel debris may end up on the back of someone’s vacant lot, dumped there illegally.

The HVAC industry has already created an additional One Million service calls a year (my unscientific estimate), plus additional landfill with all of the junk HVAC systems that crap out after 12 to 24 months and have to be replaced. Not to mention the equally disposable appliances and other stuff that breaks down due to engineered obsolescence and expensive computer chips. Oh, but those items are “environmentally friendly” or “green” because they have a higher SEER rating, or whatever.

What’s the SEER rating or Carbon Footprint of me replacing a A/C condenser unit 2 times in a 5 year span on a 5 year old property property because the original unit crapped out at 18 months and the replacement unit at two years? What’s the true economic benefit of that compared to the old, “environmentally unfriendly” units that use to last 15 or 20 years and remain serviceable even beyond that if well cared for? And this newer junk costs 3x what the old stuff did.

I’m dubious of any real environmental benefit being realized by all these extra fees and expenses in the name of “going green”. All I see from my perspective is massive waste as major components of our homes have become non-durable consumables instead of long-lasting major mechanical components. It’s putting a financial hurt on the the average American that this junk wears out regularly in less than 2 years. I just spent $300+ replacing a computer control card in a less than two year old range. That’s ridiculous. Absolutely stupid. I’m on the second 50 gal water heater in my two year old home because the original went out and was replaced under warranty. It was a fancy new age water heater that was cheaper to replace than to fix, even at just over a year old. These appliances can be designed and made to last longer, as they once did, and to be cheaper to repair, as they once were.

Is it helping the environment that Granny Johnson must now shell out $1,800 for a condensing unit that could have been replaced for $650 eight years ago? She’ll probably leave it broke and buy a fan and die of heat stroke before she forks out 3 month’s worth of Social Security checks to fix her A/C system.

Or is Joe Sixpack, humping it at his state government job, better off now that his broken water heater will cost $900-$1,200 to replace and bring up to “code”, when I could have swapped it out turnkey for $350 six years ago, or repaired the simple older unit for $75?

And is the small handyman going to be able to perform your honey do list of repairs for $250 now that his dump fees have increased 400%? Where do you think your old sinks and countertops will end up if you take the cheaper bid that doesn’t factor in full disposal costs? Next thing you know, the government will be taxing his handyman work truck because it only gets 12 mpg, and that cost will be passed on to Granny Johnson as well.

With all of the increased living and repair expenses, fees and expensive “green” stuff we’re being sold nowadays, what we’re really being sold is a crap sandwich disguised as “earth friendly” policy. Don’t be fooled. You’re being ripped off, sold out, overtaxed and provided with worthless junk that’s supposed to be “greener”.

As Neil Young put it, “you pay for this and they give you that”.

And so now I no longer enjoy my trips to the dump as much as I once did, mainly because I don’t like being ripped off. I talked to one of my contractors about this and he says he started driving out to the dump in Hutto unless he has a full 2 ton load to dump, in which case he’ll still go down south. I haven’t been to the dump in Hutto, but if there is good BBQ somewhere nearby out there, and they’re not going to rip me off on a small load, it might be worth a drive out next time.

But, sadly, that blue collar refuse of the everyman, the trip to the dump, has now too been infected and polluted by the big hand of government, squeezing the small guy and calling it “green” initiative, but really truley just raising taxes in a back door sort of way on regular people.

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