Everyone agrees: Recycling is largely about the money. So is that good or bad?

Remember this fella, an avid recycler who got a ticket for a single crushed soda bottle in his trash can? For some folks, such as Michael Smerconish, his plight was a sign of the city getting to Big-Brother-y in its quest to enforce recycling rules.

Today the DN has a letter-to-the-editor from Street Commissioner Clarena Tolson on the matter. Her response:

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Kevin Stutler

Mr. Smerconish suggested that I send my Streets & Walkways Education and Enforcement Program officers to the landfill. Sorry, but Mayor Nutter and I have spent two years working to reduce what we send there. That hard work is for a good reason: Every ton of waste that goes to the landfill costs taxpayers $65, while every ton of recycling our crews collect earns the taxpayers $50.

The city expects to earn $3 million from recycling this year.

We assume that the $3 million Tolson refers to here is after the costs of recycling and recycling enforcement. But even then, there's something funny about this back-and-forth betwen columnist and commisioner. Check out this line from near the end of Smerconish's column:

Like speeding tickets and red-light camera programs, levying fines for lack of recycling is all about one thing: stuffing city coffers. If the Nutter administration and City Council were really interested in promoting recycling, they'd be praising Stutler, not pulling 50 bucks out of his pocket.

Smerconish and Tolson are actually completely in agreement about the city's primary reason for doing this: It's about money. But whereas Tolson sees this as a worthwhile endeavor on its face, Smerconish considers it cynical and a poor excuse for what he considers an infringement of Philadelphians' privacy.

At least we know what we're debating now: Is bringing in revenues a good enough reason for the city to go through people's trash?

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