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The Almighty Buck Idle

Hungary's Needy Given Money to Burn 95

Posted by samzenpus
from the idioms-to-the-rescue dept.
Knowing that ideas are a dime a dozen and eager to think outside the box, Hungary's central bank is burning old currency to help the needy. The bank has found that the 40-50 tons of currency that needs to be burned every year is a blessing in disguise for people caught between a rock and a hard place due to the extreme cold sweeping across Europe.

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Hungary's Needy Given Money to Burn

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  • At the very least, if they take the truck, they shouldn't leave the load of waste money in the street.
  • Up in smoke (Score:5, Interesting)

    by powerlord (28156) on Monday February 13, 2012 @01:11PM (#39020843) Journal

    Watched the video. Not sure how much energy it takes to process the currency into briquets, but it is certainly one of the most innovative "Recycling" programs I've seen, and from the looks of it, one that actually benefits all parties involved (Central Bank gets to destroy old currency, Poor get free fuel).

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Something similar was done when they retired the old Deutschemarks in favor of Euros some years ago. Old currency was fed into a gasifier and passed over catalysts to make methanol.

    • by icebike (68054) *

      Not sure how much energy it takes to process the currency into briquets, but it is certainly one of the most innovative "Recycling" programs I've seen, and from the looks of it, one that actually benefits all parties involved (Central Bank gets to destroy old currency, Poor get free fuel).

      I doubt it takes more energy to process to briquets than they were already using to dispose of this stuff. In fact I suspect they are using off the shelf industrial grade shredder/balers that are already in use in places like military bases and embassies (and other high security sites) have to burn the waste on-site. These machines have metal separation built in so what you get is paper and plastic out. (Or in this case just paper).

      There are commercial grade shredder/balers [officezone.com] that make rather small bales, a

      • by gknoy (899301)

        Well, presumably they'd be burning wood or paper in those stoves anyway, so I doubt it makes a difference whether the fuel used to be money.

        • by icebike (68054) *

          No, they would probably be burning something else, perhaps coal which might be more of a pollutant. There is not enough wood in the country to serve as fuel source for the entire populace. In some cases they may be simply using fireplaces rather than stoves.

          But the point remains that wood, and coal aren't composed of a billion tiny slivers of paper that can smolder and fly out the chimney. And combustion is bound to be incomplete, lots of fragments lifted by the updraft. potentially plugging any spark ar

          • by Sulphur (1548251)

            No, they would probably be burning something else, perhaps coal which might be more of a pollutant. There is not enough wood in the country to serve as fuel source for the entire populace. In some cases they may be simply using fireplaces rather than stoves.

            But the point remains that wood, and coal aren't composed of a billion tiny slivers of paper that can smolder and fly out the chimney. And combustion is bound to be incomplete, lots of fragments lifted by the updraft. potentially plugging any spark arresters in place.

            Seems to me that blowing the shredded paper (not bales) into large coal fired electric generation facility might yield more clean and complete combustion, and electricity to boot.

            I think you are onto something. Electric vehicles are not powered by coal; they are powered by money.

      • by sd4f (1891894)

        Second: Some countries (maybe not Hungary) have special papers used in their currency. (little blue and red threads in US, other special plastics used in Australia, etc). You don't want tons of this stuff roaming around for counterfeiters to pick up for free off of the back of a truck.

        You wouldn't want to burn aussie money though, it's actually worth something now.

    • by jamstar7 (694492)
      Gassifying bank notes. Interesting.

      Can we recycle politicians the same way??
    • [rhetorical]Is the shredding/compaction process along with the delivery by trucks and collection by individual citizens truly superior to simply sending the unprocessed notes off to be burned in great, big boilers to generate steam-powered electricity for wider, cheaper distribution of power?[/rhetorical]

      I kind of like the idea of toasting my toes to the crackly warmth of tens of thousands of ex-bank-notes, but I already don't respect the notion of "money" as anything other than a abstract place-holder f
      • Re:Up in smoke (Score:5, Insightful)

        by powerlord (28156) on Monday February 13, 2012 @04:35PM (#39023983) Journal

        [rhetorical]Is the shredding/compaction process along with the delivery by trucks and collection by individual citizens truly superior to simply sending the unprocessed notes off to be burned in great, big boilers to generate steam-powered electricity for wider, cheaper distribution of power?[/rhetorical]

        I know you said rhetorical, so you probably know the answer, but:

        Sure, burning it in one place for power generation would probably be a more efficient use of the "disposable cash", assuming that is the problem they are trying to solve. In this case though the problem is: "We have these poor people who are freezing in the winter." and someone else noticed "Hey, we're going to burn this used money we took out of circulation. If we can process it a little more, maybe we can give it away to the poor and kill two birds with one 1,000 Euro brick."

        Doesn't make it the MOST efficient way of doing things, just a better use of the resources they had available.

        To make everyone happy, those who disapprove of the solution can complain that "They just keep throwing money at the problem and expect it to go away".

  • Wouldn't they be a lot better off with wood or coal, something that would actually burn for a WHILE? Paper is only useful as kindling.

    • by RazzleFrog (537054) on Monday February 13, 2012 @01:14PM (#39020885)

      Providing wood or coal would be an extra cost to the government. If they already have the paper and are already destroying it why not compress it into a useful brick for burning. I'd imagine it wouldn't burn that fast if compressed enough.

    • by DustPuppySnr (899790) on Monday February 13, 2012 @01:15PM (#39020905)
      "Our examination showed that the heating properties of these shredded currency briquettes are similar to brown coal so they are pretty useful for heating and resolve the problem to find fuel."
    • by ultranova (717540)

      Wouldn't they be a lot better off with wood or coal, something that would actually burn for a WHILE? Paper is only useful as kindling.

      Paper sheets burn for just a short duration, just as wood sheets would. However, you can heat a stove just fine with paper, it's just a matter of feeding it a lot of those sheets. However, the chances are that you'll have to agitate the fuel manually during the burning to burn it all.

  • Depressing (Score:5, Funny)

    by CryptDemon (1772622) on Monday February 13, 2012 @01:14PM (#39020893)
    I can't help but think of how depressed I would be with the irony if I were in this situation. I'm so poor and don't have money, but the government was kind enough to bring some to me and let me watch it burn.
    • Re:Depressing (Score:4, Insightful)

      by RazzleFrog (537054) on Monday February 13, 2012 @01:17PM (#39020927)

      I think it would be more depressing to know they are burning the money somewhere else and I am still cold. I mean the currency at that point has no real value and putting it back into circulation would cause insane inflation. This is really the best possible outcome.

    • Oddly cruel. It is a bit like letting homeless people crowd around a burning house instead of demolishing it. I imagine they see a lot of tears there.

      • Re:Depressing (Score:5, Insightful)

        by d3ac0n (715594) on Monday February 13, 2012 @01:45PM (#39021307)

        Not really.

        If you watch the video you will see that they aren't giving out stacks of bills in bank bands, but rather shredded note stock compressed into highly dense bricks and mortared together with a flammable medium.

        According to the video they burn with roughly the same intensity as brown coal (AKA: Lignite). It's not the greatest fuel ever, but in a country where most homes are still heated by either steam boilers or coal/wood burning stoves, it's an acceptable alternative to either re-circulating the notes and causing hyperinflation (thus worsening the poor's problems by many times over) or having the poor denude the countryside looking for wood to burn. Hungary controls it's money supply AND the poor get free fuel to get them through the winter. Sounds like a good deal to me.

      • by operagost (62405)
        Not all all, because this is fiat currency with no inherent value. It is worn out or soiled, and thus its value was removed and it was destroyed. At least the paper is now valuable as fuel.
    • by Zaatxe (939368)
      They are not "burning money", they are "burning bills". Ask an economist the difference.
  • FWIW... (Score:4, Informative)

    by KingAlanI (1270538) on Monday February 13, 2012 @01:22PM (#39020997) Homepage Journal

    FWIW, this is apparently about destroying old worn out bills, a routine practice, as opposed to inflation gone wild

    • by asylumx (881307)
      FWIW, the summary pretty much says that (and yet, I thank you for pointing it out)
  • I'm surprised they don't print an expiration date on money, making sure people spend it fast before it's worth nothing.
    • That's essentially what inflation is. It's a guarantee that your money will not be worth as much ten years from now as it is today. If you have one hundred dollars in the bank today, three of them have an expiration date of one year from now. That's why so much effort goes into making sure the inflation rate stays positive. Once deflation sets in, hoarding begins. An alternative means to expire money would be to tax wealth instead of income, but that would piss off a lot of rich people, so the politicians w
      • by na1led (1030470)
        Taxing wealth from Rich people only makes it harder for poor people to find an income. What governments should do is fix Tax loop holes. Rich people buy up hundreds of acres of land and get a huge tax break if they use 1 acre to grow a garden. These tax breaks are not proportional in what their intentions were for.
  • At around 1:30 into the video you can see this in the background: http://i.imgur.com/J2SZ1.jpg [imgur.com]
    I can't imagine what else passes for autism therapy in former Soviet bloc countries.

  • by ScentCone (795499) on Monday February 13, 2012 @02:24PM (#39022013)
    If we just stacked up, like cordwood , everyone who strings together things like this...

    a blessing in disguise for people caught between a rock and a hard place

    ...and burned them, the poor could be warmer, and the world would be instantly improved. I mean, not as much as if we were to make Soylent Green out of everybody who can't mange to distinguish between "loose" and "lose" - but, baby steps.

    • by Yvan256 (722131)

      Actually, if all the poor would simply kill the rich and redistribute their wealth, everybody would be better off except 5% of the population.

      Maths always win.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by ScentCone (795499)

        Actually, if all the poor would simply kill the rich and redistribute their wealth, everybody would be better off except 5% of the population.

        I wonder how the people in the 10%-6% slot will feel about your plan, when the 5%-1% folks are dead, and they've just been promoted to the new top 5%. Obviously the only solution is to tax everyone as needed until everyone lives at exactly the same level of prosperity. Also, since some people will be at a disadvantage for having been born without working arms and legs, or with severely limited cognitive function, it will only be reasonable to surgically render everyone as invalids, and lobotomize them to m

        • by Hentes (2461350)

          I wonder how the people in the 10%-6% slot will feel about your plan, when the 5%-1% folks are dead, and they've just been promoted to the new top 5%.

          Very true [wikipedia.org].

        • by Anonymous Coward

          Obviously the only solution is to tax everyone as needed until everyone lives at exactly the same level of prosperity. Also, since some people will be at a disadvantage for having been born without working arms and legs, or with severely limited cognitive function, it will only be reasonable to surgically render everyone as invalids, and lobotomize them to make it all fair. Wow, someone should write a cautionary short story about that scenario or something.

          If you're referring to Harrison Bergeron, by Kurt Vonnegut, the author himself said the story was not about wealth.
          http://www2.ljworld.com/news/2005/may/05/vonnegut_lawyers_could/

          "It's about intelligence and talent, and wealth is not a demonstration of either one," said Vonnegut, 82, of New York. He said he wouldn't want schoolchildren deprived of a quality education because they were poor.

          "Kansas is apparently handicapping schoolchildren, no matter how gifted and talented, with lousy educations if their parents are poor," he said.

          So it seems Vonnegut would support a certain leveling of the economic playing field, if not necessarily to the extent that you sarcastically proposed.

          • by ScentCone (795499)
            It's not about what Vonnegut would or wouldn't like. I'm responding to the general "it's not fair that some people's lives are better than others" atmospherics that have people just as cranky about dumbing down education opportunities for kids (to suit the bottom of the barrel) as they are about wanting to tear down people who run businesses or just plain earn a dollar more an hour than they do. There is a loud contingent that sees "fair" as being "nobody should get or have something that somebody else does
        • We know that a few people having all the resources doesn't work. Look to feudalism and the reason the Magna Carta was signed. We also know that everyone sharing resources doesn't work. Every large-scale attempt at communism fails in some way due to corruption and greed.

          Thus, there must be something in between where we have some richer people and some poorer people. In an ideal society, how would resources end up being distributed? We have made absolutely awesome advances in technology and production in the

          • by ScentCone (795499)

            Where did all this extra production go?

            It went into standard of living. A family of fifty years ago would have considered today's medicine, communications technology, textiles, entertainment, and the instant availability of unthinkable amounts of information to be the purest fantasy. Lower income homes with multiple televisions? Cars with airbags? Mobile phones that help you find your teenage kid on a Saturday night? Forums like this, used by people all over the globe, in real time? Living so long that cancer eventually gets you, instead of a s

            • If people today kept the same expectations for quality of day-to-day life, and harnessed all of that technology and productivity to save for retirement, hire better teachers, etc., it would be a different world. But people are lazy and like their toys.

              Alas, I have to agree with you that this is where at least some of the production went. (Looking at real income rates however shows that richer people have benefited much more from the amazing increase in production.) So what can we do to change it? How can we

        • by Yvan256 (722131)

          I was doing a completely over-the-top reply to the troll parent post, obviously. Sorry you took me seriously.

  • Have they ever thought about selling their unusable notes out for novelty purposes? I think it would spice up a good game of monopoly :)
  • .. is that one, inevitabl,e Godawful pun. Sigh.

    For the rest I think it's not a bad idea at all.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    ...you received capitalism.

    The minority who say that things are better under capitalism are as much exploitative liars as those who said things were perfect under the Soviets. But, for the average working man, things are much worse. And I say this as a Russian emigrant who left the USSR a few years after the drunk puppet Yeltsin was installed and the only significant increase for the average man was in the number of destitutes, drug addicts and suicides.

    You want to see what an old Western democracy turns in

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by frist (1441971)

      Oh please. As a 1st gen immigrant from Romania, an eastern european soviet block country crushed by first the Nazis and then the Soviets, capitalism as done in the US is a godsend compared to the bullshit of Marxism. What you have in Russia and Romania is the result of years of devastating communism, where there is no incentive to work, everyone steals from their employer (the state). The same people are in power now as before, they're just "capitalists" by name. I have family that went back after the revo

      • by Whiteox (919863)

        Agree. Similar things happened with the Birds ;), but it was worse in Romania.
        However I can't accept the fact that a lot of the Eastern block countries are finding it so hard to create a democratic government. I think a lot of the older population still yearn for the security of the old system - so my aunt tells me.

    • As a descendant of a Hungarian family your comment makes me want to puke. Your beloved USSR is THE cause that Eastern countries today have the enormous debt they are struggling to somehow repay. For decades the country was kept up (bordering misery) on sovereign debt.

      Of course capitalism isn't going to solve everything overnight, and is still quite shitty for many people who have kept the communist attitude of "daddy state will provide".

      And I won't even get started on the rampant lack of any basic lib
      • by sd4f (1891894)

        Capitalism is when one man exploits another man, socialism is the other way around

        I'm from a polish background, and i particularly despise hearing from people like the AC OP who yearn for their old system, yet somehow, find themselves in what they consider to be the worst place. Ironic huh. Fact of the matter is, lots of people benefited under communism (sad thing is that they were actively benefiting from the poverty and exploitation of others), when the cracks in the eastern block was starting to show in

  • by jimmydigital (267697) on Monday February 13, 2012 @03:14PM (#39022913) Homepage Journal

    Provide a man with fire and he keeps warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he's warm the rest of his life. Something.. something.. something.. soviet Russia.

  • Let the motherf*cker burn!
  • So, all these comments (at least as of when I last reloaded the page) and noone asking how much to buy a couple bricks? I for one would love to buy a couple bricks to keep by my fireplace. If cheap enough, I'd even burn them sometimes, but if not, would be a fun conversation starter.

    C'mon, any Hunkies reading this? Post a reply if you can score me some!

    PS: I'm an American of Hungarian decent, not insult intended calling you a Hunky & even if I wasn't, if you were offended, you should lighten up
  • by pla (258480) on Monday February 13, 2012 @06:06PM (#39025397) Journal
    TFA says that the money briquettes have a comparable energy to "brown coal" (aka Lignite), or about 2/3rds the energy of "normal" anthracite coal.

    Heating a house in the US Northeast with anthracite takes between three and six tons per year.

    So a mere 40-50 tons? Even keeping the house so cold you can see your breath, the amount of these briquettes they need to get rid of will, quite seriously, only heat 10-15 homes.

    I truly applaud the vast improvement over burning their retired currency as mere waste, but this has zero impact on keeping a nation's poor from freezing to death in the winter.
    • by Jeeeb (1141117)
      I imagine if these people owned a residence the size of a typical house in the northeast US they wouldn't have a problem with poverty. I haven't watched the video but this seems more like a burning blocks in barrels style solution which would offer some warmth to significantly more than 10 people. Of course it's not going to solve the entire heating problem but it might be 40 tonnes of forest saved.
      • by Mal-2 (675116)

        First, it's not necessary to heat the entire house, especially if you're worried about making your fuel last as long as possible. Heat a room and keep everyone there unless they NEED to be somewhere else. Second, burning 50 tons of banknotes saves a lot more than 50 tons of trees, considering most of a tree's weight is water. It also saves the energy of drying said wood (even if that energy would be solar, laying the wood out to dry on its own), and the cost of fuel to move it from the forest to the lumber

  • All I see is "This video contains content from afp, who has blocked it from display on this website. Watch it on YouTube"

    I wonder if any notes survived the shredding and compacting process to be salvagable...

  • 40-50 tons may sound like a lot, but I burn around 20 tons of wood to (mostly) heat my (admittedly large) house, with maybe 10 rooms. Supposing you could fit an entire family in something like a room, and the shredded bills really do have the heat content of brown coal (which is something like 2x wood per mass), and further supposing they are using a modern heating system (like an apartment block with a big gasification boiler) that's 2x more efficient than mine, that's still only like 100 households.

    That'

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