Mayor Touts Trash as Economic Barometer

By MICHELLE WILLIAMS, Capital News Service/Maryland Newsline

UNIVERSITY PARK, Md. (Feb. 10, 2008) - Forget Wall Street experts. Your community's trash might be another indicator of how well the economy is doing—at least according to one Maryland mayor.

University Park Mayor John Tabori told council members at a town meeting this week that the high levels of trash the town generated at the beginning of the decade spoke to the economy's health.

"If you look at the trash tonnage, it correlates with the economy. (Tonnage increased when) people were buying more," Tabori said.

And, on the flip side, last year's drop in town trash levels tracks with the drooping economy, he said.

The level of town trash rose from 1,033 tons in 1999 to a peak of 1,563 tons in 2006, he said. In 2007, after the housing market had cooled and subprime mortgage defaults had risen, the town's trash totals slipped to 1,448 tons, the mayor said.

Construction in the town during the early part of the decade and a fair number of house re-sales were possible reasons for the trash increases through 2006, the mayor and council members said. Younger families started moving in, and younger familes tend to generate more trash because there are more people in the household, Tabori said.

Jeffrey Michael, a Towson University associate professor in economics, said there is some truth to the trash-economy correlation.

"If there is less building going on and less building material going to the dump, then sure," Michael said.

Ward 7 Councilman Bradley Carpenter said that using the trash collection numbers is an interesting way of looking at the community's economic health.

"So if we see the mayor running around looking at trash," Carpenter said, "we know it's just research."

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