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The Unintended Consequences of New Trash Rules

The introduction of new pay-by-weight trash charges in Ireland seems to have produced a strange and troubling effect: an increase in burn victims at St. James Hospital in Dublin.


The theory is that people wanted to avoid having to pay for all their trash so instead they burned it in their backyards. Gary Finnegan, editor of Irish Medical News, alerted us to this strange occurrence:

The idea of the new charges was to encourage the public to “reduce, reuse and recycle” packaging and other household waste. However, it actually encouraged people to burn their domestic refuse rather than pay waste charges to the local councils. There’s no way of knowing just how many people followed this (illegal) course of action, but some of them threw flammable liquids on the home incinerator and needed referrals to burns specialists.

Here’s an academic study on the subject, just published in the Journal of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgery. From the abstract:

This study demonstrates that the introduction of legislation can have an unforeseen adverse affect on the population if not introduced in correlation with appropriate public education. While the introduction of waste charges represents a very necessary move forward in waste disposal in Ireland, public awareness campaigns should be implemented to prevent further such injuries from occurring.