To try and figure out which way the economy is headed, analysts keep an eye on traditional statistics like the Conference Board’s Leading Economic Index, the Institute for Supply Management’s Reports on Business, and the Reuters/University of Michigan Surveys of Consumers. Based on the following Seattle Times editorial, “Economic Indicator: Garbage,” maybe they should just follow their nose?
The volume of Seattle’s garbage tracks with the economy and the stock market.
FOURTEEN months ago, former King County Executive Ron Sims made an odd statement. People were wondering if the economy was in a recession. Sims said he thought it was, because the volume of garbage was down, and that meant people were buying fewer new things — and throwing away fewer old things.
We had not thought of judging our city’s prosperity by the weight of its discarded food wrappers, Styrofoam shapes, dryer lint and worn-out shoes. Was Sims right? Could we really chart business conditions that way?
The numbers support Sims’ assertion. The volume of trash is down from a year ago.
The plunge is not a result of recycling. “There is no way we have increased recycling that dramatically,” says George Sidles, a Seattle Public Utilities area manager for recycling and solid waste.
What happened in September? Lehman Brothers failed, WaMu was seized, and AIGwas put on life support. In September, Wall Street stocks began a plunge that lasted until March. And in Seattle, the tonnage of unrecycled garbage began a plunge in October that stabilized in March and April, with volumes down 18 percent from the high of last summer.
Sims was right. If you want to know how your community is doing, business-wise, you can ask a representative group of business owners. Or one garbage collector.
Source: Seeking Alpha
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