An Inside Look at Pay-As-You-Throw Programs

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“There is no single thing that can be done – and I mean you can add up the next nine best ideas, whether it be single-stream on through whatever other ideas you have about recycling – you can add all those things up together, and they wouldn’t have the impact of going to a pay-as-you-throw program,” Mark Dancy, president of WasteZero, a company that helps municipalities implement pay-as-you-throw models, told Earth911 back in 2010.

So, what’s the latest on these programs, and what is the impact on waste reduction figures? Earth911 took a look inside for the details.

Map of pay-as-you-throw programs by state courtesy of the U.S. EPA. Click to enlarge and expand interactivity functions.

Map of pay-as-you-throw programs by state courtesy of the U.S. EPA. Click to enlarge and expand interactivity functions.

Why choose PAYT?

More than 7,000 communities are cashing in on the perks from pay-as-you-throw (PAYT) programs, according to the latest EPA data available.

The concept is pretty straightforward: A municipality changes how its residents pay for their trash from a fee- or tax-based payment model to prepaid trash bags. In this way, residents’ trash essentially becomes just another metered utility – they only pay for what they use (how much they throw away).

Most communities with PAYT charge residents a fee for each bag or can of waste they generate. In a small number of communities, residents are billed based on the weight of their trash, the EPA says.

Regardless of the specifics, making residents more aware of the exact volume of their waste tends to drastically increase waste diversion numbers – which can save communities millions of dollars in tipping fees, according to WasteZero.

Traditional PAYT programs reduce a municipality’s residential trash output by an average of 20 percent, but communities with WasteZero partnerships often average a 44 percent reduction or more, according to the organization.

To date, more than 800 communities have partnered with WasteZero to operate their PAYT programs, saving more than $200 million in tipping fees due to increased waste diversion.

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Mary Mazzoni

Mary Mazzoni

Mary is a lifelong vegetarian and enjoys outdoor activities like hiking, biking and relaxing in the park. When she’s not outside, she’s probably watching baseball. She is a former assistant editor for Earth911.
Mary Mazzoni