Trash becoming a good gauge of the economy

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WEST JORDAN -- What you throw out says a lot about you: your tastes, your preferences, even your economic outlook. If you pool all the trash together, you can unofficially gauge the state of the economy and whether things are getting worse or better.

At the Trans-Jordan Landfill, general manager Dwayne Woolley agrees that consumer economic theory can be tied to trash. "It appears they're spending their money on different things, cheaper and more generic and more basic things," he said.

That means instead of, say, Quaker oatmeal, it's Great Value oatmeal. It's a different type of trash from a few years back. Woolley says then, a lot more good, usable things were being thrown away. "People were tired of it and just moved on to something new," he said.

Now, Woolley says, "The stuff that's coming out is definitely well used and worth throwing away." It's what they call "true trash."

Nationwide, some landfills are down 50 percent, but Utah is different. Trash intake here is down only 10 percent, and that should be considered good economic news. "The economy is well enough in Utah that people are still spending money," Woolley explained.

A lot of what they're spending it on, ends up at the landfill; they're just spending it in different ways. "Instead of going to the restaurant and having as big of restaurant debris coming in, we have more household debris coming. So, people are eating at home and throwing the debris away. Where before that was being eaten in the restaurant and thrown away at the restaurant," Woolley said.

Also, a reflection of the economy: what's not being thrown away. "Less recyclable type, like steel that they can recycle themselves," Woolley said.

So, if this trash is any economic index, Woolley says it looks like we're still in a recession.


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Lori Prichard


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