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Garbage Truck Workers and Their $100,000-Plus-Per-Year Jobs

As proof that you don’t need a college degree to make over $100,000 a year, the waste disposal industry is paying big salaries to a wide range of individuals without a long history of education.

CNN recently highlighted the story of Noel Molina and Tony Sankar, two garbage truck workers from New York City who make a very comfortable living despite their lack of higher education. CNN contends that the pair are not too far out of the ordinary in the waste disposal industry.

Not only has waste disposal been a good, steady job for the pair, “We’re one of the very few blue collar jobs that can’t be outsourced to China,” Molina told CNN.

“Your trash is my money,” Molina, a high school dropout and immigrant from Guyana, added with a grin.

Of course, while the low educated pair from New York aren’t alone in their big dollar salaries, the trash industry nationwide pays considerably less on average than $100,000 a year. But even at that, the salaries for low educated workers in the garbage industry are higher than the national average. While high school graduates who drive garbage trucks make $40,000 on average nationwide, high school dropouts only average $24,000 a year nationally in other jobs. Those who finished high school but have no further education average $30,000 across the country according to federal sources, still below the national average of garbage truck drivers.

CNN also said waste industry workers have been one of the few sectors to see a steady rise in wages, too. Since 2009 trash workers have seen an average of 18 percent income growth.

This rise in wages is in part due to an increase in local governments demanding new and more involved recycling programs.

But while some hail these recycling programs as an excellent way to keep landfills from overtaking the world, not to mention a way to somehow prevent climate change, others insist many of these programs are wasteful. Worse, some decry the tax dollars and subsidies floating the recycling industry, calling the public money a sort of stealth tax on the citizenry.

The Foundation for Economic Education, for instance, says while recycling is good when it is approached sensibly, “Too often, it’s promoted as an end in itself without regard to whether it’s worth the time and expense.”

In addition, Professor Daniel K. Benjamin, a senior fellow at the Property and Environment Research Center, asserts in a paper from 2010 that the recycling “fiction” misleads citizens into thinking they are helping save the planet, when in many cases they aren’t. In Benjamin’s assessment,most local governments subsidize recycling programs out of overcharges on trash pickup or other taxes, so the costs are heaped on tax payers even as the programs do little to fulfill the claimed goals.

Even liberals are sometimes skeptical of recycling programs because often they are built on catchall concepts that belie the more complicated truth of separating the actual recyclables from those that aren’t.

So, when all is said and done, some of these higher salaries for the waste disposal industry are artificially driven by tax subsidies in some cases and because of mandated government programs in others. Ultimately the latter is a stealth tax on citizens.

Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston or email the author at igcolonel@hotmail.com

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