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Garbage In, Garbage In,… and In and In and…

When people think of rising productivity, I suspect that they normally think of industries such as computers and biotech. But how about this great news, reported last month by the New York Times, from the garbage-disposal industry:

Workers at a landfill in Orange County, Calif. – as if tamping down the contents of a wastebasket – regularly pile one million cubic yards of dirt atop a football field-size section of the giant dump. Six months later, the workers scrape the dirt aside and the dump’s surface has fallen 30 to 40 feet, making space for yet more trash.

"It’s just amazing," said Mike Giancola, deputy director of the county’s waste agency.

Orange County’s method is part of a remarkable productivity story playing out in the trash business, quietly saving consumers, businesses and municipalities billions of dollars a year. It is an unlikely industry for such a large leap of efficiency.

Simply put, operators of garbage dumps are stuffing more waste that anyone expected into the giant plastic-lined holes, keeping disposal prices down and making the construction of new landfills largely unnecessary.

I object only to the claim this is an unlikely industry for such a large leap of efficiency. Why unlikely? Its output is low-tech and ancient: waste disposal.  But just because an output – the part consumers are aware of – is low-tech and ancient, doesn’t mean that creativity cannot and does not abound in the means of producing this output.

Read the entire article for many details on how landfill-operators are improving their efficiency at disposing waste.

Hat tip to Fred Dent.


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