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If water, electricity, gas and similar services can be called "utilities", could rubbish collection and/or disposal be a part of this grouping?

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Back before strong municipal burning laws, we would always burn our rubbish in a big burn bin, but we would send the actual garbage out to the dump. Now we don’t even separate it out that way — instead of having rubbish versus garbage, all we have now is trash. Recyclables aren’t even trash, though, so they get their own pickup, and so those do get separated out instead of the burnable rubbish.

  • Is a utility only something that delivers something to you, not takes it away?
  • Is a utility only something that is strictly regulated?
  • Is a utility only something that is owned by the city or country, not a private business?

I don’t know, but they’re certainly all city services. Which I think is all that matters.

I would call water, sewer, gas, electricity all a form of city utilities, because they deliver something to you. Trash pickup and recyclables pickups, and telecommunications (phone, internet, television), are all also pretty standard city services these days, and many of those are highly regulated ones too.

On the other hand, maybe you only want to call it a utility if your taxes pay for it. The thing is which things are private and which are regulated public utilities varies form one district to the next.

If you live in the country, think of what things you don’t get. You don’t get gas or water, or sewer. Depending where you live, you might also not get electricity. And it’s unlikely you have trash pickup. And good luck with that phone. Where I live, cell phones are useless to people in the country.

Call up your local public utlities commission, and ask them what it is they oversee. That’s your locally correct answer for ya.

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I was going to post this as an answer, but I'll tack it on here: utility: 1: a company that performs a public service; subject to government regulation and under this definition a refuse collection company certainly qualifies. When working my household budget I definitely include garbage collection under "Utilities" –  Jim Jun 10 '12 at 21:46
    
A very thorough and balanced argument, considering reasons to attribute that nomenclature and not to. Not to mention well-grounded in reality. I really appreciate this kind of answers; I'd "upvote" twice if I could. Out of curiosity, which distinction do you make between garbage and rubbish? –  Robottinosino Jun 10 '12 at 21:48
    
@Robottinosino When I was a child, rubbish was burnable but garbage was not, and was usually wet. Trash makes no such distinction. I don’t know that those nuances still hold. But notice that you have a garbage disposal unit in your sink, not a rubbish or trash disposal unit, so perhaps the distinction persists after all. –  tchrist Jun 10 '12 at 21:51
    
In the UK, waste disposal is one of the few things almost entirely paid for by taxes. Gas, electricity, water (incl. waste), telecoms, are fully commercial operations, albeit more regulated than some other sectors. What we call "public transport" (buses, trains, etc.) are about 50% state-subsidised, but they're still run by private companies. Oh, and in most areas the state won't take away, say, your old fridge, without you pay extra - and it's often cheaper to pay a private company to do that anyway. –  FumbleFingers Jun 10 '12 at 22:39
    
@FumbleFingers Here it varies by municipality. I pay a private company to pick up my trash and my recycling, but my parents (who lives in a small town in Wisconsin not a largish one in Colorado) have their trash picked up as part of their city taxes. And yes, you have to pay extra for big things — if they’ll even take them. –  tchrist Jun 10 '12 at 23:01
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In common usage, utilities tend to be public services based on a local network infrastructure. So in addition to your examples, water and sewerage are other cases of utilities, and perhaps telecommunication services are sometimes included. Utility services often have special legal rights such as the ability to dig up roads. So in this sense, rubbish collection (typically using vehicles) is often not described as a utility.

Literally any useful public service can be called a utility, but others may be confused if you do. To make matters more complicated, many utilities have been provided by municipal or local public health services and these have also provided other services such as rubbish collection.

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24,800 instances of "utilities and waste disposal" in Google Books would strongly suggest that for most writers these are considered separate (subdivisions of [municipal] services, perhaps).

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“Most” is unfounded. You’re jumping to conclusions. You have nothing to compare it against. Before what you have above to be at all meaningful, you have to answer the qustion of how to google for the utilities that did include trash pickup, so you can compare those with the ones that did not. Only then can you start talking about most do or do not, or whatever. This is all part of why I despise google as some sort of answer. –  tchrist Jun 10 '12 at 22:33
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