The purpose of this chapter is to explore the nature and the role of public services needed or demanded by new residents of suburban developments. The following pages will do so in more detail than was possible earlier in the book.
The term "public service" is used here to mean any kind of social or economic service to a suburbanite which is frequently, but not invariably, provided by some unit of government. Schools are one form of public service, although of course there are private schools. The services considered can nearly always be provided most economically for units far larger than the individual household. For example, there are great economies of scale in a sewer system, but a septic tank can be used to dispose of a single family's sewage. Likewise, household water supply can often be provided most economically for a whole suburb or for an even larger urban complex, yet some householders are served by individual wells.
Waste disposal is a basic requirement for all residents in a suburban area. At least three major kinds of waste must be disposed of: water-borne household wastes, solid wastes, and natural waste waters. In the typical modern American home, each member of the family wants to flush down the toilet or down the sink any kind of waste that can be accommodated physically, whenever he desires to do so. This includes personal and household wastes of many kinds. The volume of such wastes per capita is rising rather sharply. Indeed, the amount of wastes a community has to dispose of is one index of its level of living. Health regulations, as well as the personal tastes of the average householder, require such wastes to be carried away quickly, though what happens to them once they are out of sight is often ignored.
The average American home also has a substantial volume of solid wastes to dispose of. Newspapers and magazines may easily amount to a ton a year in many homes. Other household paper, primarily wrappings or containers of various kinds,