Pay-as-you-throw Controversy- Pros and Cons

by Eddy Thursday November 9th 2023

Pay-as-you-throw Controversy- Pros and Cons-clean-out-sydney-rubbish-removal-002

Pay-as-you-throw is a waste management policy charging residents & businesses for how much rubbish they throw out. It is also known as variable-rate pricing or pay-as-you-waste. Many cities and towns worldwide, including over 7,000 in the U.S., have adopted this policy.

In large cities, the council often requires residents to purchase custom garbage bags or stickers so that they pay separately for every bag of garbage they generate. Alternatively, people may have to sign up for a particular level of waste collection service, which limits the amount of garbage they can set out on the curb.

Pay-as-you-throw is one of the most effective tools for local governments to control waste disposal costs and encourage residents to participate in recycling and composting programs. When households begin paying directly for waste services, they tend to reduce the amount they throw away. In 2020, towns in Massachusetts that used pay-as-you-throw systems generated 30% less rubbish per household than cities without such systems - an average of 108.4 kilos compared to 796.5 kilos.

While this policy can lead to people recycling and composting more, so the total volume of the waste stream remains relatively stable, pay-as-you-throw communities usually generate less waste, including recycling and composting, over time.

However, pay-as-you-throw can be controversial initially as it feels like a new tax when charged separately, despite the fact that everyone is already paying for the collection and disposal of their garbage. The program has also raised concerns about illegal dumping, although this has yet to be observed.

A significant issue with pay-as-you-throw programs is that they can be expensive for low-income households. However, to mitigate this problem, many communities have introduced measures such as discounts or free bags for elderly and low-income residents. Additionally, most communities keep their recycling rates lower than rubbish rates to keep costs affordable for everyone.

"Solid waste" significantly impacts the environment as landfills and incinerators generate greenhouse gases with toxic pollutants. Transporting heavy waste materials from urban centres to distant disposal sites also contributes to environmental degradation. While recycling is a better option for some materials, research shows that local pay-as-you-throw programs improve waste management by encouraging everyone to generate less rubbish in the first place by spurring shifts in consumption.


'Pay-as-you-throw' is one of cities' most effective tools for reducing waste | GreenBiz.

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