In my neighborhood trash and recycling are collected separately, on different days, by different entities.  On Tuesdays the trash collector drives his little trash shuttle all the way to my garage to empty the trash cans.  On Wednesdays, I am required to wheel the recycle bin out to the curb to be collected by the recycling truck.

At first glance the economics would suggest the opposite.  The recycling is valuable to the collector, the trash is not, so when bargaining over who has to carry the goods down the driveway, the recycling collector would seem to be in a worse bairgaining position.

But on second thought, it makes perfect sense.  Can you see why?  For a (admittedly obscure) hint, here is a related fact:  another difference between the trash and recycling is that the recycling bin is too small to contain a typical week’s worth of recycling and most households usually have recycling overflowing and stacked next to the bin.

If you are following me on Twitter (and have I suggested recently that you should be following me on Twitter?) you will know the answer.  For the rest, follow the jump.

In Cook County where I live, landfill space is extremely scarce and there is a strong public incentive to recycle.  Of course my private incentive is significantly smaller (notwithstanding intra-household, non-monetary incentive schemes devised by my wife.)

Separate, curbside collection of recycling makes it transparent who on the block is recycling and who is not.  (Bringing out an empty recycle bin doesn’t work because the bin is so small that vigilant recycling will overflow the bin.) This adds to the private incentive to recycle.  The trash collectors have no desire for such incentives.