Thursday, April 02, 2009

Trash Consultant Says Pay as You Throw Plans Work

A consultant was asked to comment on her experience with illegal dumping associated with a Pay-As-You-Throw program. This is a program that should satisfy seniors and single persons who have very little trash; those who haul their trash to another location such as a family member or to work; the county and those who cannot opt out of the county's program since they do not live in a subdivision (discrimination in the first degree).

The experience in most fee-based or PAYT programs is that there is a significant decrease in the amount of solid waste tonnage and a somewhat smaller increase in the recycling tonnage.

The drop in tonnage when a community begins PAYT is attributable to many things in addition to recycling, reusing, donating and composting more. At first, people will stomp on bags to fit in as much as possible, a few will take trash to relatives in other towns, or to work, or put it in public barrels or dumpsters. These attempts to avoid a few dollars generally don't last long because they take time and effort, and over the long haul most people find it easier to recycle or pay the fee at home rather than go to the trouble to avoid it.

In addition, families with vacation homes elsewhere are more likely to leave weekend trash with their local dump or transfer station instead of bringing it home. One thing that does not seem to occur is dumping in roadsides, rivers, woods or parks.

There will likely be a small initial increase in illegal dumping in pubic barrels and dumpsters, but this ends if nipped in the bud quickly with fines for violators. Lots of people leave mail in their trash, so they can easily be tracked down. Most people realize how embarrassed they'd be if they got caught and the police returned their trash bags.

In my experience, instead of "bring your trash to work day," the opposite is true. When trash collection is free in a town, some business owners bring work-related trash home. A trash limit or fee will put an end to that, or at least the businesses will be paying their own way.

The City of Concord's program has been a success for many years and launched its recycling rate into the top rates in the state.

Ann Dorfman
Recycling & Resource Management Consulting
Newton, Mass.

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