Thursday, June 4, 2009

Tax Credits for Conscientious Waste Disposal?

JessTrev with a policy proposal for the Obama Administration.

I'll make this quick and dirty since we bought a new house and I've got some packing to do (woo hoo!). While getting our current place ready for sale over the past several months, I've been decluttering whenever I can (my rowhouse neighbors and I both love freecycle, fortunately, so they have been extraordinarily good sports about the revolving door of neatly labeled bags on my front porch) . Some things, though, are just past their prime. Big, hulking things like my love seat.

Now, my love seat has seen my family through some good times. My husband and I bought it together (one of the few pieces of furniture we've ever gotten - we are lucky in the hand me down department) back when we lived in California. We paid extra to slather it with some type of persistent organic pollutant stain guard. But the real selling point of this love seat? Was that -- in our fond terms -- it was an action sofa. If you pushed back with your shoulder blades? A footrest swung out of the love seat. There were two seats. We referred to this particular piece of furniture as the Marriage Saver. When you have two very, very tall and bony people, both trying to lie down on a very small sofa to watch television? There are a lot of elbows. So we bought the Marriage Saver and all was well.

Fast forward eleven years. Since the love seat saved our marriage, we'd gotten a delightfully spoiled 85-pound dog who liked the Marriage Saver very much, thank you. Right after he'd turned around a few times and scratched, right through the stain-repelling fabric, into the foam interior! Sandra Steingraber had a few nightmares just because of our love seat. We did try a couple different sofa covers before giving up in despair. I mean, it's not like we were going to declaw our canine. And that animal? Wasn't going to sleep on hardwood or tile, baby. (Don't ask - he ate dog beds like some pets eat Snausages). Plus, we had Sharpie-wielding, peeing children by this point. So why get a new sofa?

The answer, it turns out, is that the Marriage Saver Eyesore turned out to be too ugly to leave in our house while we put it on the market. And Lord knows we weren't going to move it! Believe it or not, no one wanted it off freecycle!

So, like my poor shattered carseat, I turned to a company that's working hard to make sure our old crap doesn't just get kicked to the landfill curb. Back when I was trying to get a recycling program started at my kid's school last fall? An amazing woman named Linden Coyne stepped forward and offered her company's services to set up a program for us for free (we later got accepted as part of a DC Public Works/DC Public Schools pilot program so we didn't have to take her up on her offer, but how cool was that?). I knew she was the person to turn to to deal with the Eyesore.

I shot Linden an email, and the rest was history. For $100, Linden came and hauled away my eyesore. Plus, she promised me that if she couldn't find someone to actually use the sofa (what a sweet optimist, eh?), her company would dig down into the love seat and remove the steel frame -- to be recycled. Cool, huh? Well, she was even cooler than that. She told me that if I was willing to dig deep myself, our city's bulk pickup would handle the frame and take it to be recycled for free! Who tries to lose business to save a customer money?! Luckily for Linden's company (Junk In The Trunk), there's no way I'm ripping into a bunch of flame-retardant foam around my kids. So $100 later? Problem solved.

My policy rec? You know how you can get a tax write-off for donating goods to charitable organizations? What if you could take a tax deduction for paying companies to do right by your waste? Not like I begrudge the companies that took care of recycling the parts of my car seat and love seat, but it wasn't cheap to do the right thing. I'd love it if there were some way our government encouraged people to follow suit.

8 comments:

greeen sheeep said...

Congratulations on your new abode!

I think that's a fabulous idea. Sometimes people need a little push to get headed in the right direction.

JessTrev said...

Rebecca - I myself could use that little push! Just think it would be in Uncle Sam's long term interest to support responsible waste disposal - instead of leaving it up to people's consciences (and cash flow).

Erin aka Conscious Shopper said...

I think this is a great idea. I've long thought that companies should be required to be responsible for the disposal of the products they make, but then we'd just end up with a bunch of companies "responsibly" taking back products and then shipping them to countries that have lower environmental/health standards. Kind of like what happens to so much of our "recycled" plastic. In your way, we'd be giving the products to someone we know is going to dispose of them properly. I like that much better.

Congrats on your new house! We just moved too, and I know what an environmental headache it can be...

Alfie said...

congrats on the pending move... NoVA?

Daisy said...

Great idea! Now I just need to address that loveseat in the living room, the one the rabbit chewed all to heck...

Liz said...

I love freecycling too! I also donate a lot to a locka thrift shop that supports the battered woman's shelter.

For years people on the island would take their old appliances out on to the ice in the spring and wait for them to disappear. I am so glad it doesn't happen any more! In Japan, when you purchase a new big item, that company is responsible for disposing of your old one.

Green Bean said...

Great idea. I think we need more incentives like this for people to go the extra mile (and spend a little bit more) on an environmentally responsible decision. JessTrev for President!

Mic said...

Employees in every corporation must always make a priority to put a shredding machine where there is a lot of paper works to perform.

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