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What is Pay-As-You-Throw?

July 15, 2009

Pay-as-you-throw (PAYT) can also be called variable pricing or unit pricing and is a program where residents pay for the amount of garbage they send to the landfill. Just like with electricity, water and other utilities, PAYT let’s residents control their costs by paying for how much they use. Its goal is to provide an equitable and affordable system and to create an economic incentive to recycle more and generate less waste.

When residents pay for waste through their property taxes and have unlimited disposal capabilities, they don’t see the relationship to their actions and the city’s costs (aka taxpayer money).

There are several ways that cities structure PAYT fees:

  • Tags/stickers—the garbage haulers will only take bags/containers that have a sticker on it. Stickers are often purchased at local grocery and hardware stores.
  • Bags—the garbage haulers will only take garbage that’s in a special city bag, also sold by local retailers.
  • Cans/carts—households would sign up for a specific level of garbage service and receive a certain number or specific size of garbage can/cart. The garbage haulers will take only what fits in the garbage cart/can provided.
  • Hybrid system—combines the cans/carts model with stickers or bags for extra waste.

There are pros and cons to each system and Peoria will need to decide what system will work best for our city. The most important part is providing universal curbside recycling to all residents and for the recycling program to accept as many items as possible. This way, most of the “garbage” can actually be diverted into the recycling stream instead of the landfill.

Many people immediately assume that everyone will start illegally dumping their garbage all over the city. Over 7,200 cities in the U.S. use some form of PAYT and most of them don’t have any problem with illegal dumping. Those that do are able to get it under control with strong enforcement and education during the first few months.  According to an EPA SERA 2006 Report

Concerns about illegal dumping seem more fear than reality. Problems arise in fewer than 1 in 5 communities, and usually last less than 3 months.

Political issues are the main barrier in PAYT – technical issues (litter, equipment, administration, haulers, etc.) are rarely a bother and have solutions from around the nation.

PAYT is fairer than tax-based systems – and after implementation, more than 95-98% of households prefer the new system.

Like this concept? Tell Mayor Ardis and City Council! They need to hear from you before the July 28 meeting when they will discuss the City of Peoria residential waste hauling agreement again.

Have ideas/concerns? Post them here (and tell the Mayor and council too) so we can address them.

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