For quite a while, I have wondered why public residential waste collection is so much more common than private collection. Monopoly arguments don’t sway me very much because private companies should be able to compete for individual routes effectively, if not individual residents.

Literature on the economics of private residential waste collection is sparse, but an old Cato paper offers an explanation I had not considered:

In my discussions with members of the refuse-collection
industry, however, the explanation most frequently
offered for public-sector intervention (either municipal,
contract, or franchise operation) was the public’s desire
to have only one truck come into their neighborhood once
or twice a week and pick up all the refuse.

I also learned that Fairfax county had (and appears to still have some) private refuse collection. It doesn’t seem to work very well, but I can’t identify a good reason why it doesn’t.

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