PAYT Bulletin: Fall 1997
The PAYT Bulletin is designed to help solid waste planners and others get the latest pay-as-you-throw news and events. Use the links below read articles from the Fall 1997 issue. To review other issues of the Bulletin, use the links on the right side of this page.
As pay-as-you-throw (PAYT) has grown, intense interest has focused on the actual performance of these programs.
Economic theory suggests that charging by the can or bag creates an incentive for people to recycle more and to generate less waste. But how well does it work in practice? This year, several new studies are helping to answer that question.
The first study is based on a multiyear pay-as-you-throw research project conducted by Duke University. Researchers gathered extensive information from 212 communities with PAYT, including data on container prices and waste amounts. (The communities include a mix of rural and urban municipalities spread over 30 states across the country.) The researchers recently announced a number of key findings, including:
- In the first year of the program, households generated between 15 and 28 percent less waste, on average, then they had in the year prior to program implementation.
- The amount recycled in these communities increased by between 32 and 59 percent, on average.
- Illegal diversion (both dumping and burning of trash) was a smaller problem than anticipated. Forty-eight percent of the cities and towns saw no change in illegal diversion, while 6 percent felt it declined after PAYT was implemented. Just 19 percent felt it increased (27 percent had no information).
- Using data collected through the end of 1995, Duke University found more than 3,400 communities in the United States with some form of PAYT.
A second study corroborates several key findings. This August, Resource Recycling published the results of recent research from Skumatz Economic Research Associates, Inc. (SERA). Using information from its biannual nationwide surveys, SERA found that as of 1995 there were approximately 3,800 PAYT programs in the United States. By this fall, the figure had grown to over 4,200. Since 1989, SERA has recorded an increase of well over 400 percent in the number of PAYT communities.
In addition, the SERA research discovered that illegal diversion in communities with PAYT tends not to be a major issue. Just 27 percent of the surveyed communities reported evidence of illegal diversion. Further-more, only 4 percent of these communities indicated that it is an ongoing issue.
Another organization that has gathered data on the effects of PAYT programs is the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR). Through a grant from EPA, ILSR created the Waste Reduction Record-Setters Project. The goal of this project is to identify successful waste reduction programs in communities, businesses' and other organizations and to promote them as models. To document these success stories, EPA will publish a report in the winter of 1998 featuring ILSR's research on 20 record-setting communities.
Not surprisingly, 12 of the 20 communities have PAYT programs. Waste reduction levels in these researched communities dramatically increased with the advent of PAYT, while waste generation levels remained relatively stable. These programs were particularly effective in increasing composting participation in communities with drop-off sites instead of curbside pickup for yard trimmings.Viewers tuning in to EPA's national satellite video conference on March 12, 1999 9 were treated to a wealth of real-world information and advice on PAYT. The live, interactive program, entitled The Nuts and Bolts of Pay-As-You-Throw...From Those Who Know, was one of EPA's most successful municipal solid waste satellite events to date. Watched by over 2,000 people at nearly 300 downlink sites in the United States and Canada, the forum offered solid waste managers, state and local government officials, and elected officials ideas and strategies for implementing a successful PAYT program in their community.
To provide the audience with up-to-date, reliable information, EPA assembled a panel of five experts to address the "nuts and bolts" of implementing PAYT. The panelists included solid waste experts and local representatives from both large and small communities across the country that have established successful PAYT programs.
The two-hour session opened with the panelists suggesting strategies for conducting effective public education campaigns, overcoming political opposition, and designing an appropriate rate structure. Questions and answers in the second half of the forum covered such varied terrain as maximizing diversion and monitoring the progress of PAYT following implementation. Sharing their first-hand experiences and insights, the panelists highlighted three main keys to success: advanced planning and research, citizen involvement, and techniques for utilizing local planners' intimate knowledge of what works in their communities.