WFMD discussion about Pay-As-You-Throw household waste collection


On November 15th, I was a guest on WFMD’s “Frederick’s Forum” for a discussion about “Pay As You Throw” household waste collection options that could be considered and adopted in Frederick County.

The program, hosted by Pattee Brown and Dave Schmidt, was both a discussion and debate, since there was another guest there to oppose the concept.

The idea of Pay As You Throw is not new or untested. Also known as volume based pricing, a variety of different approaches have been adopted by more than 7,000 jurisdictions in the United States. That includes almost a third of the 100 largest cities in the country, and every sort of municipality and county, in forty six states.

This discussion is just one small part of what I hope and expect will be a growing public discussion about how some form of pay as you throw could increase recycling and composting, reduce the cost to local governments, and reduce the cost to the great majority of individual homeowners and renters.

You can listen to the program here:

First hour of Pay As You Throw discussion

Second hour of Pay As You Throw discussion

The audio doesn’t include news and commercials, so each hour is closer to forty minutes.

Here is a bit of basic background information from the Environmental Protection Agency:

environment_equity_economyIn communities with pay-as-you-throw programs (also known as unit pricing or variable-rate pricing), residents are charged for the collection of municipal solid waste—ordinary household trash—based on the amount they throw away. This creates a direct economic incentive to recycle more and to generate less waste.

Traditionally, residents pay for waste collection through property taxes or a fixed fee, regardless of how much—or how little—trash they generate. Pay-As-You-throw (PAYT) breaks with tradition by treating trash services just like electricity, gas, and other utilities. Households pay a variable rate depending on the amount of service they use.

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. Either way, these programs are simple and fair. The less individuals throw away, the less they pay.

EPA supports this new approach to solid waste management because it encompasses three interrelated components that are key to successful community programs:

1. Environmental Sustainability – Communities with programs in place have reported significant increases in recycling and reductions in waste, due primarily to the waste reduction incentive created by PAYT. Less waste and more recycling mean that fewer natural resources need to be extracted. In addition, greenhouse gas emissions associated with the manufacture, distribution, use, and subsequent disposal of products are reduced as a result of the increased recycling and waste reduction PAYT encourages. In this way, PAYT helps slow the buildup of greenhouse gases in the Earth’s atmosphere which leads to global climate change. For more information on the link between solid waste and global climate change, go to EPA’s Climate Change Web site.

2. Economic Sustainability – PAYT is an effective tool for communities struggling to cope with soaring municipal solid waste management expenses. Well-designed programs generate the revenues communities need to cover their solid waste costs, including the costs of such complementary programs as recycling and composting. Residents benefit, too, because they have the opportunity to take control of their trash bills.

3. Equity – One of the most important advantages of a variable-rate program may be its inherent fairness. When the cost of managing trash is hidden in taxes or charged at a flat rate, residents who recycle and prevent waste subsidize their neighbors’ wastefulness. Under PAYT, residents pay only for what they throw away.

EPA believes that the most successful programs bring these components together through a process of careful consideration and planning. This Web site was developed as part of EPA’s ongoing efforts to provide information and tools to local officials, residents, and others interested in PAYT.

Visit the page for links to learn more about how these programs work.

Frederick Forum on WFMD 930AM
with Pattee Brown and Dave Schmidt
November 15, 2014

First hour of Pay As You Throw discussion

Second hour of Pay As You Throw discussion

Frederick’s Forum archive

Frederick News Post Editorial
Brunswick looks at pay-as-you-throw
Thursday, November 13, 2014

EXCERPT: Pay-as-you-throw is a fairer way to go, because residents pay according to the amount of trash they generate. As things are now in Brunswick, and most other places, a single-person household pays the same for trash disposal as a household with five residents, even if it generates five times the trash that the solitary person does. Likewise, a household that is diligent about recycling pays the same for trash service as a household that doesn’t bother to recycle.

We spoke with Brunswick Mayor Karin Tome and Councilman Ellis Burruss, both of whom support the pay-as-you-throw concept and believe it could work for their city. Kudos to them and other forward-thinking officials and residents of Brunswick who want to investigate this option.

This meeting was the first of what we hope will be a series of meetings in Brunswick. Nothing was decided, and lots of questions remain. We might suggest that the city invite someone from Aberdeen to come to Brunswick and explain how and how well its pay-as-you-throw program is working there. We think that would draw a good crowd and be very helpful to both city officials and residents.

When asked about that initial meeting, Burruss, who was in attendance, replied, “Tonight is not the end of this discussion. It’s just the beginning.”

We look forward to that discussion continuing and hope Brunswick residents do as well.