United States
                          Environmental Protection
                       Solid Waste and
                       Emergency Response
              April 1997
     &EPA           Pay-As-You-Throw
     MSW programs
today need to offer
 more than reliable
    waste  collection
  services. In some
  communities,  the
       issue is rising
      collection and
      disposal costs.
 Others  are looking
 for ways to extend
    landfill  capacity.
                          A  Fact Sheet  for MSW Planners
           As an MSW planner, you
           know how important it
           is to reduce the amount
           of waste residents put
 nut for r.nlli  ection (or bring to the

 In fact, your community probably
 started a recycling program to help
 divert some of this waste from dis-
 posal. Even with a strong recycling
 program, however, it's likely that
 your residents are throwing away
 more each year-pointing to the
 need not only for more recycling,
 but also to get residents to generate
 less waste in the first place.

 In nearly 2,000 communities, a pro-
 gram called "pay-as-you-throw" is
 helping MSW planners meet this
What is
Pay-as-you-throw  programs,
also known as unit-based
or variable-rate
provide a direct economic incentive
for your residents to reduce the
amount of waste they generate.
Households are charged for waste
collection based on the amount of
waste they throw away-in the same
way that they are charged for elec-
tricity, gas, and other utilities. As a
result, residents are motivated not
only to boost the amount they recy-
cle, but also to think about generat-
ing less waste in the first place.

Pay-as-you-throw programs can be
structured in several different ways.
Some communities charge residents
based on the volume of waste they
generate. Under volume-based pro-
grams, residents are charged a fee
for each bag or can they fill up.
Communities also can require that
residents purchase tags or stickers
           and affix them
             to their own con-
             tainers. Other
             communities bill
               residents based
                on the weight
                 of their  trash-
                   because of

cost of the equipment needed to weigh the waste and
record the amount for billing purposes, weight-based
programs are far less common.
What are the  benefits  of
However it is structured, pay-as-you-throw has the
potential to improve MSW programs in several
important ways. First, there are significant economic
benefits. Because of the incentive to generate less,
communities with programs in place have reported
reductions in waste amounts ranging from 25 to 35
percent, on average.  For many
communities, this can lead to
lower disposal costs  and  savings
in waste transportation expens-
es.  Pay-as-you-throw  communi-
ties also typically report
significant increases in recy-
cling. When recycling markets
are strong, this can yield
increased revenues from the sale
of collected materials.

Pay-as-you-throw programs can
be designed to cover the cost
not only of waste collection and
disposal, but also of some or all of the community's
complementary MSW programs (such as recycling,
composting, and bulky waste collections). There
often are new costs when a pay-as-you-throw pro-
gram is adopted, including expenditures for educa-
tion and enforcement. These costs usually are not
significant, however-and they can be built into  a
pay-as-you-throw rate structure.

Another advantage of pay-as-you-throw programs is
the greater control over costs they offer to residents.
While they may not realize it, your residents pay for
waste management services. And whether they pay
through their taxes or with a flat fee, residents who
generate less and recycle more are paying for  neigh-
bors who generate two or even three times as  much
waste. With pay-as-you-throw, residents who reduce
and recycle are rewarded with a lower trash bill.
This incentive to put less waste at the curb also can
make a big environmental difference. When people
generate less waste and recycle more, fewer natural
resources are used, there is less pollution from manu-
facturing, and less landfill space is consumed, reduc-
ing the need to site new facilities.
Are  there  disadvantages to
While there are potential barriers to a successful pro-
gram, communities with pay-as-you-throw report that
they have found effective solutions. Community offi-
cials often raise the prospect of illegal dumping when
                  they first learn  about pay-as-you-
                  throw. Most communities with
                  pay-as-you-throw, however, have
                  found that illegal dumping in fact
                  did not increase after implementa-
                  tion. This is especially true when
                  communities offer their residents
                  recycling, composting for yard
                  trimmings, and  other programs
                  that allow individuals to reduce
                  waste legally. Others, particularly
                  lower-income residents, worry
                  about the amount they will have
                  to pay.  In many communities,
however, coupon or voucher programs are helping to
defray  their  expenses.
How can I learn  more about
EPA has developed a series of products for anyone
interested in pay-as-you-throw. Individuals looking
for more information on these programs can request
additional fact sheets, community success stories,
and other materials. For local solid waste planners
interested in bringing pay-as-you-throw to their
community, EPA has developed a comprehensive set
of tools to help them design and implement a
successful program. To find out more about  EPA's
collection of products, call the Pay-as-you-throw
Helpline toU free at  888-EPA-PAYT.