Are dirty dishes in our future? If so, you can thank yet another government scheme to make us all greener that doesn’t give any thought to the consequences of mandating unproven technologies and making individuals pay more for less. (See “low flow” toilets that don’t flush, Mercury filled compact florescent bulbs and stinky front load washing machines for previous examples).

A ban on some types of dishwashing detergent has turned some Spokane, WA residents into black marketers and smugglers according to a story in the Associated Press:

They are bringing Cascade or Electrasol in from out of state because the eco-friendly varieties required under Washington state law don’t work as well. Spokane County became the launch pad last July for the nation’s strictest ban on dishwasher detergent made with phosphates, a measure aimed at reducing water pollution. The ban will be expanded statewide in July 2010, the same time similar laws take effect in several other states.

Minnesota is one of those states.

Excessive Phosphates cause overgrowth of algae in lakes and streams. But here’s the problem: phosphates occur in nature and cause seasonal algae blooms when trees shed their leaves and plants decay. Even in possession of this information, the state legislature went ahead and enacted a ban on Phosphate lawn fertilizers in 2002 anyway. This report from the MN Department of Agriculture shows that the law did little more than establish a government funded education campaign on lawn care. Predictably, it has had little effect on water quality.

For people with lawns, fortunately there are a variety of alternatives in lawn care. And it turns out that many people were probably over fertilizing their lawns anyway. In the dishwasher detergent case, low phosphate washing products are less effective at cleaning dishes. One person interviewed in the article says that when he uses the eco-friendly detergent, he has to put his dishwasher on a higher setting, which uses more water in order to get his dishes clean.

The government creates more expense for the producers of these products; hassle for the consumer, increases in government spending for the taxpayer to shoulder and at the end of the day, there is little or no benefit to the supposed goal of creating a cleaner environment.

Plenty of inconveniences but not a whole lot of truth.