Pay-as-you-throw “makes more sense”

This is an interesting feature from the Nashua Telegraph (New Hampshire USA), which is also running a local poll on the same issue.

Nashua’s Solid Waste Department, in the midst of a major overhaul of city trash collection, is on the brink of squandering a great opportunity. The department is considering an annual trash-hauling fee to help offset projected budget deficits, and plans to use a one-size-fits-all formula to determine how much residents will pay.

Now is the time to implement a pay-as-you-throw plan, as opposed to a flat fee that does nothing to encourage recycling. With a new fleet of garbage trucks about to hit the streets, a newly opened landfill and years of public-education efforts on its side, the department should consider instead a pay-as-you-throw plan, in which city residents pay US$1 per bag for municipally issued trash bags available at grocery stores and other retail outlets. Only those bags would be accepted for disposal.

Such a plan would reward residents who take the time to compost, recycle and cut down on their personal contribution to the waste stream.

About three dozen municipalities in the state already use pay-as-you-throw bags, and the Environmental Protection Agency has found that the system leads to more recycling and less waste than with methods such as a flat fee. But pay-as-you-throw wasn’t even among four options the Solid Waste Department considered.

As it stands, the department’s plan assumes households will throw out 1.3 tons of trash each year. That works out to an average of 50 pounds of garbage per household, every week from the nearly 21,000 stops on city routes.

And to make room for all that junk, the city plans to offer residents their choice of 65- or 95-gallon trash bins. Containers that size will easily accommodate much more than 50 pounds of garbage, offering residents no incentive to compost, reuse or recycle.

The department’s plan would have homeowners paying about US$ 225 per year, and condominium residents paying about US$ 120, for trash hauling. Those fees don’t include additional charges to pick up home-improvement debris and bulky items. A family that might need only two pay-as-you-throw bags a week (each containing up to 30 pounds), would only end up paying US$ 104 a year to dispose of 60 pounds of garbage each week. Why should that family pay US$ 225 to subsidize others who recycle less and throw away more.

Fees are inevitable – the Solid Waste Department faces multimillion-dollar deficits in coming years – but that won’t make paying them popular. For people with money burning holes in their pockets, a couple hundred bucks or more a year is no big deal, but residents on a tight budget will feel the pinch. They should be rewarded for being careful about what they discard.

There’s room at the landfill for 25 years worth of junk, but where does the city plan to throw its trash when the new dump is full?

In addition to the pay-as-you-throw concept, the city could extend the landfill’s life, encourage conservation and cut down on waste by taking two other simple steps: n Offer composting bins at a low cost or no charge to residents who ask for them.

If the city can afford to hand over, free of charge, thousands of heavy-duty waste bins designed to be picked up mechanically, surely it can subsidize compost bins, too.

Nobody likes to pay a new fee, but if the Solid Waste Department wants residents to buy into its system, it should make conservation easier and charge people for what they dispose of, not a penny more.


Ano da Publicação: 2003
Fonte: WARMER BULLETIN ENEWS #16-2003: May 6, 2003
Autor: Kit Strange (Warmer Bulletin)
Email do Autor:

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