It's all part of the cycle of stuff that people in the trash business say they've seen in every economic downturn since the end of World War II. People don't buy stuff, so there's less packaging -- which typically makes up one-third of all landfill trash -- to toss. With a drop in demand, manufacturers make less, creating less waste. More vacant homes and fewer people in a community mean less trash. A stagnant housing market means less construction debris. On tight budgets, people eat out less, so restaurants order less, so there's less to throw away. Landscapers are out of work, so there's less yard debris [Brigid Schulte, "A Trashed Economy Foretold," Washington Post, 2009.03.14].
Some landfills report 30% declines in incoming trash, which is extending the usuable lifespan of those landfills. Who says a recession is so bad?
But before I can launch all bright-sidey into my Monday, I have to notice the few hundred fellow Americans living in tents in Sacramento, Phoenix, Portland, and elsewhere. No, the recession hasn't encouraged Americans to get out and enjoy the great outdoors. It's leaving working Americans with no better housing option than tents and tarps:
Take, for example, 53-year-old Dave Cutch. His clothes suggest a suburban hiker, except that he stands in a muddy patch outside a tent that he's called home for the past two months. A year ago, he was a welder in Colorado.
"So the company I'm working for, I get laid off," Cutch says. "I qualified for unemployment — 24 weeks. My car's paid off, my truck's paid off, my bike's paid off, everything except for my house payment, right? But I feel like I'm still going to pull out of it."
Months went by without work. Cutch lost his house, his car was stolen, his savings ran out. This past August, he took up a friend's invitation to come to California, but that didn't work out, either.
"Trying to get back on my feet, you know," Cutch says. "Daily, I still go out looking for a job. But the thing I'm running into is when I put the application in they ask me, 'Where do you live at?' And I go, 'Actually, I don't have a place to live. I'm homeless.' That's it. They don't hire me" [Richard Gonzales, "Sacramento Tent City Reflects Economy's Troubles," NPR Morning Edition, 2009.03.16].
I'll bet the $165 million of bailout money AIG is spending on executive bonuses could create a lot of honest work for the folks in Sacramento's tent city.