PAYT Bulletin: Fall 2004
Kansas City Phases Out the Garbage Fairy
Before Kansas City, Missouri, began implementing PAYT in March 2004, its 442,000 residents were used to throwing away as much trash as they wanted, no strings attached. In 1970, the city passed a 1 percent city income tax, and offered residents unlimited garbage collection in perpetuity in exchangea concession that led to the widespread illusion that garbage collection was a "free" service. Despite this and other hurdles, Kansas City took advantage of PAYT's flexibility and implemented a system that is projected to save the city nearly $2 million per year once it reaches full implementation this December.
According to John Stufflebean, Kansas City's director of environmental management, the "free collection" illusion created by rolling garbage disposal fees into city taxes prevented the city from moving to an entirely fee-based structure for garbage collection, lest it face a revolt. To provide more equitable waste disposal while still honoring its tax-based commitment to residents, Kansas City chose to adopt what Stufflebean refers to as a "hybrid" PAYT system.
Each week, residents can dispose of up to two bags of trash, which are paid for under the tax-funded collection promise. If residents need to dispose of additional trash, they may purchase a $1 trash tag at local retailers for each additional bag. To help residents meet the two-bag limit, Kansas City launched the "Recycle First" program, providing residents with free, unlimited recyclables collection. City administrators established a bi-weekly recycling collection schedule, based on survey that revealed that residents visited the city's recycling drop-off centers an average of once every two weeks.
The "free garbage" myth was not the only barrier Kansas City faced on the road to PAYT implementation. PAYT advocates also faced low motivation for change within the government. The city had historically been blessed with low landfill costsunder $20 per tongiving city leaders little reason to look for potential cost savings through MSW reorganization. However, by 2003, Kansas City's era of low tipping fees was coming to an end. The city's landfill contract was up for renegotiation, and with the amount of available landfill space shrinking, the price was bound to go up.
"We're in a budget crisis like everyone else," said Stufflebean, "and trash costs were just killing us."
City officials knew that recycling was one way to reduce landfill costs, but without an incentive for residents to recycle, they felt that there would be no motivation for the public to respond. So how could Kansas City get residents to recycle and reduce its garbage bill? PAYT!
To ease the logistical burden on the city, officials introduced PAYT in phases. One-third of the city began PAYT on March 1, followed the second third on September 1. The remaining third of the city will be introduced to PAYT in December.
Before beginning implementation, the city conducted extensive outreach efforts, including meetings in neighborhoods, discussions in city council meetings, and distribution of brochures explaining the Recycle First and PAYT systems. As a result, residents haven't been caught off-guard when their turn to switch to PAYT comes.
Despite the drastic change from the "all-you-can-throw-away" model, Stufflebean says the city receives few complaints once the program is up and running. Most of the calls they receive are in the weeks leading up to implementation of the program within a given area.
"People tend to call before they get the program. They don't think they can make the two-bag limit. But once they get [PAYT], they find out that it just isn't that hard," said Stufflebean.
Implementation has been smoother in some areas than others, reports Stufflebean. For instance, the city's urban corecomposed of older, less affluent neighborhoods with high rental populationshas been particularly difficult. But the city isn't giving up. Instead, Kansas City is redoubling its outreach efforts by placing radio messages and reaching out to community groups and churches to spread the word about PAYT.
Because the primary goal in adopting PAYT was to reduce disposal costs, Kansas City found ways to reduce costs during the implementation of its recycling program as well. Rather than distributing recycling bins to residents, the city partnered with PriceChopper supermarkets and Westlake Ace Hardware to distribute recycling bins. The city mailed vouchers to residents, who then exchanged them for recycling bins at the retailers. By doing so, and shifting the shipping, storage, and distribution costs to the retailers, the city reduced its implementation costs by an estimated $1 million. In return, the retailers got customers into their stores-a clientele the retailers will keep when residents return to purchase supplemental trash tags.
Promising (and Profitable) Results
With two-thirds of the city now a part of the PAYT program, Stufflebean reports that residents have been able to "make it" to the two-bag limit, and less. Despite pre-implementation doubts, the average PAYT household has only had to purchase two additional tags. Currently, about 50 percent of PAYT residents are setting out their recycling bins, and trash generation in PAYT areas has decreased by 30 percent. According to Stufflebean, recycling accounts for some 25 percent of the decrease, while the remaining 5 percent is due to residents' efforts at source reduction.
That 30 percent reduction in garbage volume will save the city money at the landfill, but PAYT implementation is proving to be a thrifty strategy in other ways as well. With residents working hard to put all of their trash in two bags, collectors no longer need to round up a bevy of bags, cans, and loose items. Instead, they only need to toss two neat bags in the back of the truck. The increased efficiency means that areas where 12 routes were needed are now down to nine routes, resulting in reduced labor costs as well as less wear and tear on machinery. The city government shares collection duties with an outside contractor, and that contract is also up for renewal. Since it will have to pay its contractor for less routes, the city will once again be able to cash in on its switch to PAYT.
Between the reduced collection costs and savings on landfill costs,
Stufflebean estimates that the city will save some $2 million per
year by switching to PAYT. With less trash in the landfill, more
residents recycling, and a lot more money in city coffers, PAYT
has proven successful not only for the environment, but for the
Kansas City's bottom line as well.
St. Regis Mohawk Tribe Protects the Earth
Rural Reservation Can Serve as PAYT Role Model
Across the nation, many small, rural communities are struggling to close open dumps, begin curbside collection programs, and build transfer stations or landfills that meet federal regulations. Too often, solid waste planners in these communities quickly dismiss PAYT as an option because they believe residents will resort to illegal dumping if they are required to pay disposal fees. Many rural communities are also economically disadvantaged, and solid waste planners feel that residents who are struggling to make ends meet will not place solid waste management near the top of their list of priorities.
Laura Weber, director of solid waste management for the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe, disagrees. The St. Regis Mohawk Reservation, located in upstate New York, spans 21 square miles and is home to approximately 2,700 people. Since 2002, when the reservation began its PAYT program, the tribe has served as a shining example to other rural communities-proving that PAYT can work just as well in rural America as it can in the small towns and suburbs. Ms. Weber attributes the program's success to proper planning and extensive community involvement. In fact, the tribe implemented PAYT in response to requests from community members.
Soliciting Input from the Community
During the early 1990s, reservation residents expressed dissatisfaction with current waste disposal options. At the time, private waste haulers provided curbside collection services for a flat fee. Residents felt that the fee was too high and complained to the Tribal Council and the Environment Division. Rather than continue down the road of tradition, the tribe chose to confront the issue head-on in an effort to protect the environment and reducing the tribe's disposal costs. In 1994, the tribe hired a consultant to conduct a solid waste management feasibility study-the first step in the creation of a model rural PAYT program.
The consultant visited 100 homes and approximately 100 businesses, asking residents and business owners to identify solid waste management concerns by completing a survey. Survey respondents believed that waste haulers charged too much, did not provide dependable service, and failed to recycle materials that residents set aside for recycling. The survey also revealed that some residents used open dumps to avoid paying the haulers. These individuals recognized the health and environmental issues associated with open dumps and backyard burning and wanted to protect the Earth, but could not afford to pay the private waste haulers. They asked the tribe to provide an affordable alternative. Thus, community members called for the tribe to implement PAYT, as it would allow them to control disposal costs through waste prevention and recycling.
The tribe used grants to launch its PAYT program, which is currently self-sufficient, and worked hard to make the program affordable and accessible. Customers simply purchase special trash bags from the St. Regis Mohawk Solid Waste Community Service Agency. A box of five bags costs $10. A special logo adorns the light blue bags, which are easy to distinguish from ordinary trash bags, and tribal employees collect the blue bags from each household once a week. Residents can deposit glass, aluminum, steel, plastic, and paper materials at the tribe's recycling depot. In addition to making the PAYT system easy to use, the tribe boosted participation rates by incorporating education and other elements into its solid waste management program.
Sustaining PAYT: Using an Integrated Approach
to Achieve Success
To discourage illegal dumping, build support for PAYT, and create a sustainable solid waste management program, the tribe drafted a solid waste management code, established a new agency dedicated to solid waste, conducted education and outreach, and set up monitoring and enforcement procedures. This integrated approach paid off. "Backyard open dumping decreased, and many members of the community elected to participate in our PAYT program," said Weber.
Weber believes that education and outreach is critical to the success of any solid waste management program. Before launching PAYT, the St. Regis Mohawk Solid Waste Community Service Agency mailed brochures detailing the benefits of the new collection program. The tribe also recruited customers by educating community members on the solid waste management code, which includes a ban on open dumping. Tribal employees visited residents that continued to dump illegally and explained the hazards of open dumps. Most of the dumpers agreed to pick up their waste and begin using the PAYT program.
Weber also credits constant monitoring with augmenting program success. "We didn't have any firm data on waste generation rates before PAYT, but now we are collecting data every single day of the week," she said. "We analyze trends and identify potential problems before they cause headaches." Soon after implementing PAYT, for example, the tribe discovered that residents were not recycling as much as possible. Tribal employees conducted extensive education on waste prevention and recycling, resulting in a jump in the recycling rate of glass bottles, steel cans, aluminum cans, and plastic bottles. In 2003, community members recycled 25 tons of these items along with 50 tons of mixed paper.
Through waste prevention and recycling, residents significantly reduced their waste generation rates. PAYT allowed them to reap the benefits of their conservation efforts. Each month, PAYT households on the reservation spend $10 to $15 less on waste management than households that subscribe to the services of private haulers.
Weber believes that PAYT can work in other rural communities if residents realize the importance of proper waste disposal and understand that PAYT can keep disposal costs under control. She cautions other tribes and small communities, however, that a successful PAYT program might not happen overnight. One tribe in Wisconsin, for example, implemented PAYT and experienced an initial increase in illegal dumping on the reservation. "It is critical to plan adequately and address the needs and wants of your community," said Weber, who urges tribes and rural communities to garner community support before beginning PAYT and to take an integrated approach to waste management.
Bienvenidos a PAYT: Small Spanish Town Moves to Equitable Collection
The 4,100 residents of the small town of Torrelles de Llobregat, Spain, became the first Spanish residents to use PAYT in their hometown. Since 2002, Torrelles de Llobregat, part of the metropolitan area of Barcelona, has increased its recycling rate from 45 to 83 percentthanks to a PAYT program developed specially for the town. Now, the town council can boast not only of waste reduction, but also of a growing number of visits to the local recycling center, the improving separation of the collected materials, and happier citizens.
The initiative to change the existing waste management system came from several concerned local residents. As in most Spanish municipalities, the households of Torrelles de Llobregat paid a fixed annual fee of 62.50 Euros (approximately $80) for year-round trash collection and recycling. However, homes that generated less waste felt that the system was unfair, and looked for a way to decrease their payments.
People's dissatisfaction with existing practices prompted the local environmental council to look for alternatives. The council members discovered that PAYT programs used in Italy, Belgium, and the United States have been dealing with similar problems for years and achieved notable success. The council figured that a compact urban city like Torrelles de Llobregat could be a promising PAYT location. The town invested 30,600 Euros (approximately $39,000) to announce the user fee-based method and spent 18,000 Euros ($23,000) to design the city's collection and fiscal system.
During the first year of implementing the PAYT program, costs skyrocketed to the delight of its critics. But the decision to integrate the new program into existing practices helped smooth the sharp edges of the transition period. Instead of a flat fee, residents of Torrelles de Llobregat now pay a variable fee for 40 percent of the total waste collection costs. Another 40 percent of the expenses are covered by a 35-Euro ($40) tax, and 20 percent is covered by the municipal budget-much like in previous years. In addition, biowaste, paper and cardboard, diapers, and glass are collected for free. All other waste?mostly packaging and refuse?goes into trash bags sold by the environmental council at 17 local stores. Income from bag sales keeps the flat collection fee half of what it was before implementing the PAYT program. Thanks to the new system, the people of Torrelles de Llobregat no longer feel cheated when they see more trash bags near their neighbor's door than at their own.
To pay or pay-as-you-throw for household waste is not a rhetorical question to the people of the Czech Republic. According to a new book entitled, To PAY(T) or not to PAY(T) for Household Waste: Results of Statistical Surveys in the Czech Republic, Czechs have substantial experience in developing and implementing PAYT programs. Just a few years ago, however, the country's laws did not support the PAYT initiatives of the municipalities. Worse still, the Chamber of Deputies (the Czech Parliament) passed a law that obligated local authorities to establish a flat fee for waste collection if they decided to charge at all for this service. The law came into effect in January 2002 and essentially undermined local attempts to find innovative ways to deal with municipal waste.
By 2003 Czech legislators realized that their regulations were
at odds with major recycling efforts not only in their own country,
but the world. The 2003 amendment to the existing law allowed Czech
cities to design various rate systems based on local conditions
and experience. "Currently, we are at another breakpoint, and
it is extremely interesting to analyze how the municipalities in
the Czech Republic deal with waste collection and recycling as well
as examine the attitude of individual households," commented
Petr Sauer, one of the book's authors and head of the Department
of Environmental Economics at the University of Economics in Prague.
In collaboration with his colleagues and co-authors of the book, Mr. Sauer conducted statistical surveys and analyses of the country's waste management practices. The book contains highlights of this work, carried out under the aegis of an international project called "Variable Rate Pricing based on Pay-As-You-Throw as a Tool of Urban Waste Management," and sponsored by the European Commission.
To PAY(T) or not to PAY(T) mainly focuses on the economic aspects of PAYT. Using a wealth of statistical data, the authors investigate PAYT's potential to bring household waste to a minimum and to maximize its separation under typical urban conditions. For example, Czech researchers found that people who live in PAYT communities produce less total waste: 240 kg (529 lbs) versus 260 kg (573 lbs) per person annually. In addition, Czech municipalities with PAYT programs show some improvement in waste separation. Per year, they separate 29 kg (63 lbs) of waste per capita in comparison to only 18 kg (40 lbs) in municipalities without PAYT.
The book also covers how a Prague household handles trash and
a survey of waste management operations in selected Czech cities.
To PAY(T) or not to PAY(T) for Household Waste: Results of Statistical Surveys in the Czech Republic by Petr auer is available from the Department of Environmental Economics, University of Economics in Prague. To order a copy, contact email@example.com.
PAYT Crusader in a Colorado Homeowners Association
With a recycling participation rate of more than 90 percent, it's easy to see that the residents of Fort Collins, Colorado, are concerned about the environment. Since 1996, the city has operated under a PAYT ordinance; however, until recently, at least 10,000 residents-approximately 19 percent of the city's population-were not offered the opportunity to utilize PAYT.
A loophole in the policy language allowed homeowner associations (HOAs) to consider themselves commercial accounts, which are exempt from the ordinance. In these neighborhoods, the residents did not have PAYT as an option. When Wendy Studinski moved into a neighborhood where the HOA mandated the waste collection services, she was astounded at the amount of garbage produced. Each home had to subscribe to a 96-gallon-per-week service-and even received an extra 33-gallon container for overflow. Since there were no financial consequences for extra volume, Studinski consistently noticed mountains of trash. As a household of one, she created significantly less waste than some of her neighbors.
To encourage her HOA to change its solid waste policy, Studinski presented information about PAYT and its waste diversion incentives at the Board of Directors meetings. To help illustrate how much waste can be diverted with incentives to recycle or reduce, she brought in a garbage bag with the amount of trash she created each week. "Our HOA Treasurer actually called me a liar," Studinski said, "saying that it was impossible to have that little trash."
While Studinski has always been conscientious about reducing waste and recycling, she knew her neighbors could be too. Since the HOA was not amenable to making changes on its own, she turned her efforts to changing the city ordinance and attended several City Council meetings. As it turned out, Susie Gordon of the city of Fort Collins was already in the process of updating the PAYT ordinance.
The city proposed to amend the ordinance by specifying that all single-family and two-family residences in Fort Collins fall under unit-based trash rates, including those in group accounts such as HOAs. To further ensure that each household knows about their options to save money through PAYT, haulers are required to list all service prices when bidding for contracts with HOAs and other group accounts. Also, the haulers must publicize unit-based prices to individual residents who participate in group accounts, allowing them to choose their level of service.
Fort Collins welcomed public involvement throughout the amendment process. To gather public comment, the city sent letters to interested parties, made phone calls, ran newspaper advertisements, and held meetings. In particular, the city requested feedback from HOAs, property management companies, and trash haulers.
After the PAYT ordinance update, Studinski's HOA changed its waste collection services to bring PAYT to the residents. Although they are still signed up automatically for the 96-gallon-per-week service, now they can choose to switch to two other levels of service. For the standard service, per-household rates dropped more than $30 per year. Now that her neighbors are charged for waste collection based on volume, Studinski sees less trash placed at the curb each week.
Seeing less waste has energized Studinski; she plans to lobby her HOA to select a waste collector offering more levels of service and yard waste collection, and eventually see Fort Collins collect organics throughout the city.
Like many other communities across the country, Athens, Ohio, maintains highly successful PAYT and recycling programs. Unlike many other PAYT communities, Athens faced an additional challenge: a majority of the town's population is transitionalstudents from Ohio University.
Of Athens' 21,342 residents, about 20,000 are OU students, many of whom live off-campus in the community. Seventy percent of the households in Athens are rental unitsthe vast majority of which are seasonal or temporary, based on the university quarter/semester calendar. This lack of consistency in occupancy could be expected to be a major barrier to PAYT for many towns, but with a highly effective outreach effort, it proved barely a speed bump to the town's PAYT progress.
Athens has been no stranger to recycling and waste reduction measures. In April 1984, the community became the first in the state to implement a comprehensive curbside recycling program. That limited program has since expanded to serve just under 90,000 residents in rural Athens and Hocking Counties in Southeastern Ohio, including the cities of Nelsonville and Logan and the villages of Amesville, Albany, and The Plains.
Residents of Athens have benefited significantly from the implementation of PAYT in 1990 and the expansion of the recycling center. Between 1997 and 2001, the amount of material diverted from landfills resulted in a cost avoidance of approximately $500,000, and the diverted materials were sold, resulting in nearly $1 million in revenues. The $1.5 million net benefit to the community went towards a fitting causelocal trash cans.
Not only does the greater community reap the benefits of PAYT, residents also notice the positive effects on their individual pocketbooks. Each household pays $2.50 per month for curbside recycling collection and $5.00 per month for weekly trash collection of one 30-gallon container of trash, or $9.50 per month for two containers. Stickers for extra bags are $1.50 each and residents are charged $3.00 each for untagged bags set out for collection.
The program has now expanded to include two recycling processing facilities, cardboard collection routes, and biannual tire and appliance roundups. The center employs 21 full-time workers with benefits and is financially self-sustaining, deriving its funds from fees for service and revenues generated from the sale of recyclable materials. Though it has not been without challenges, the Athens recycling and PAYT programs have been tremendously successful and advantageous to all those who call Athens homeeven if it is only for four years.
We Want to Hear from You!
EPA would like to promote YOU and your PAYT successes and
experiences. Whether you are a community just starting PAYT,
one that has been doing it for years, or anywhere in between,
we want to hear from you!
We are interested in information on new programs, program expansions, lessons learned, challenges overcome, advice, changes, trends, new documents or reports, community reactions, or any other aspect of your PAYT experiences that could be useful to others.
Please send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org with your name, affiliation/community, address, phone number, email address, and a brief synopsis of your news. Please also let us know the population of your community and when you started PAYT. We will contact you for more information and include you in our online PAYT Bulletin and/or other informational materials about PAYT. One of the benefits of being part of a progressive, conservation-minded municipal program is the recognition you receive. Don't pass up this opportunity!
Spread the Word!
Please spread the word about PAYT to your neighboring communities, association members, and others in the solid waste arena. Because all of our correspondence will be via email from now on, please send an email to us at email@example.com with email addresses of anyone you think would be interested in joining our mailing list and receiving the PAYT Bulletin.