You make the trash, you pay for it
Communities and local governments throughout the country have grown tired of declining recycling rates and rising waste disposal numbers.
The utter disregard for the amount of waste we, as Americans, create on a daily basis – estimated to be about four pounds per person per day – is a problem that won’t go away.
What is being done about it? Many communities have turned to variable-rate pricing programs for waste disposal, better known as Pay As You Throw (PAYT) programs. These PAYT programs provide a financial incentive for individuals and businesses to be mindful of the amount of waste they create. The most common flat-rate fee structures for waste collection charge the same for one bag of trash as they do for 10.
Basically, PAYT customers are charged for their trash by weight or volume, thereby making them directly responsible for the waste they create. The majority of towns have chosen to charge by volume, as it is less labor-intensive – the trash doesn’t have to be weighed.
In volume-based programs, customers must purchase bags, containers, tags or stickers that distinguish volume and cost. To help citizens reduce waste, most communities offer unlimited curbside recycling for free.
The programs have proven to be highly beneficial with few, if any drawbacks. In PAYT communities, waste is reduced by 50 to 67 percent because citizens see economic incentives to increase their recycling and composting efforts.
The average household goes from producing three 32-gallon bags of trash a week to just one bag each week. Recycling rates increase from 25 to 50 percent, and most of the increases occur within the first year.
The program costs are actually lower than traditional programs. Large communities save up to a quarter of a million dollars annually, and individual households save $40 and up.
Making the switch to a PAYT program is simple for most citizens, if education begins far enough in advance to alleviate confusion. When tag and sticker programs are used, citizens simply attach the tag or sticker to the same bag they have always used – assuming that the bag is of the agreed upon size, typically 32-gallon.
When will we see a PAYT program in Summit County?
Before a program can be implemented, we need to establish curbside recycling service. Before curbside service can be put into action, a materials recovery facility (or recycling processing center) needs to be in place.
We at Summit Recycling Project have our work cut out for us. But, with community support, the process will be reached more quickly and easily. If you would like to learn how you can help support Summit Recycling Project’s efforts, visit the Web site at
http://www.summitrecycling.org or call (970) 668-5703.
The benefits that PAYT communities enjoy are hard to deny, and we will strive for a program here. We can make it happen.
Holly Kingsley is the education coordinator for Summit Recycling Project, a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization dedicated to minimizing waste in Summit County and surrounding areas. “Let’s Talk Trash” is a column dedicated to exploring local and global waste issues. Individuals are invited to submit contributions to Summit Recycling Project at email@example.com.
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