Check out this chilling passage from the city's "Cart Chronicle," delivered to Madison residents along with their new garbage bins:
"Microwaves, TV's, Fluorescent Bulbs, Computer Monitors, and CPU's require a fee for collection. Putting these items in your cart is illegal and you could be fined. Our trucks are equipped with cameras that monitor what is emptied and you can be billed for materials illegally placed in your cart."
Holy police state, Batman! Besides making profligate use of capitalization and apostrophes, the city's garbage Gestapo are watching what you toss, so violators can be punished. Can two-way TVs (see, no apostrophe) that beam images from your house back to city hall be far behind?
George Dreckmann, the city's top recycling cop, says the cameras are nothing new: "We've had them in the recycling trucks too." The city's 21 new garbage trucks, like the 11 recycling trucks they'll join, use a three-camera system. One acts as a kind of rear-view mirror for the right-hand-drive vehicles; one is in back for going in reverse; and a third is trained on the opening, so drivers can see what's being dumped.
"They can look if they want to," Dreckmann says. No tapes are made, so this technology cannot be used against citizens in court. (Interestingly enough, the city's new handheld devices for issuing parking tickets do have this capability - they can document that meters are expired, film altercations and nab parking scofflaws who drive off as tickets as being written.)
If a driver sees a computer tumble into a truck, the resident who tossed it could get a citation. More likely, says Dreckmann, a note would go out saying, 'Hey, this is what we found. Don't do it again or you'll be fined.'" Or words to that effect.
Currently, computers or TVs left at the curb would be flagged and left. But with the new system, drivers can't remove items once they hit the trucks. So if the city does warn before it fines, that means residents are essentially being given one free illegal toss. (Talk about wimping out on the police-state concept.)
"If [the dumping of illegal items] turns out to be an epidemic, we might approach it differently," says Dreckmann. But he doesn't think that will be necessary: "Most people are pretty honest about this stuff."