Garbage Reduction Programs

Innovative trash collection systems may provide a different way to manage future garbage problems. One idea pioneered in some countries is "Pay-As-You-Throw," or PAYT—a type of garbage collection

One new type of garbage collection is "Pay-As-You-Throw," which charges customers based on the amount of trash that they generate. A man counts some of the new Wheelie bins that are being used in England as part of the "Pay-As-You-Throw" program.

that charges residents for the collection of municipal wastes based on the amount of trash they generate. Supporters of these programs argue that they create a financial incentive that helps to motivate consumers to recycle and reduce their trash. As the EPA explains: "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."58

Some PAYT programs bill customers based on the weight of their trash, while others charge by volume. Either way, the system has a proven record for reducing the volume of trash people throw away. As Matt Kallman of the environmental group World Resources Institute describes:

Residents of the city of Maastricht [in the Netherlands] . . . must buy plastic garbage bags based on how much waste they expect to generate; larger bags cost more money. Since the introduction of the program, the city's recycling rate has increased from 45 percent to 65 percent. Other cities have similar programs based on weight, which is tracked by a computer chip embedded in trashcans; households are charged for the total amount of non-recyclable waste they produce.59

Japan also has had great success using PAYT. During the 1990s the country experienced a rising tide of trash due largely to excessive packaging used by Japanese manufacturers. As the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific explains:

Packaging offered by Japanese shops is unparalleled in other nations. For example, it is not unusual to find gift cartons of biscuits individually wrapped inside their boxes, nestled in corrugated papers inside a plastic bag in a tin or box, covered with wrapping paper and presented in a shopping bag. Basic grocery items like fruits, even single carrots, often come individually wrapped in cellophane.60

To fight this problem, many cities in Japan adopted PAYT programs, including the country's capital, Kyoto. As an article from the Web site Japan for Sustainability explains:

Nine months after a new fee-based waste collection program was introduced in the city of Kyoto, the weight of household garbage generated by residents had dropped by 16.5 percent and the weight of recyclables was some 21 percent lower compared to the previous year, according to a city report released in November 2007. Over 50 percent of people that responded to a public survey on the new program, conducted by the city in February 2007, said that they had definitely changed their waste handling habits as a result.61

PAYT is now increasingly being adopted in thousands of cities in the United States. A 2006 EPA report found that nearly seventy-one hundred PAYT programs are operating in American cities, including thirty of the country's largest cities. The states of Minnesota, New Hampshire, Oregon, Washington, and Wisconsin have the most PAYT programs, and many other places are adopting PAYT programs at a rapid rate. The EPA estimates that the PAYT systems already reduce U.S. municipal solid wastes by 4.6 million to 8.3 million tons (4.2 million to 7.5 million metric tons) each year.

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