United States
                          Environmental Protection
                       Solid Waste and
                       Emergency Response
              April 1997
    SEPA          Pay-As-You-Throw
                          A  Fact Sheet for  Elected
      As an elected
    official in your
   community, you
         have many
 besides municipal
solid waste (MSW)
  it's an important
       Residents in most communi-
       ties have come to expect
       efficient, reliable trash col-
       lection and disposal, and
they tend to support those officials
who can get the job done.

This task has been growing more
complicated, however. First of all, it's
likely that your residents are gener-
ating more waste each year, even
if you have a recycling program
in place.

That can mean escalating costs. And
whether your residents pay for
MSW services through a direct, flat
fee or via their property taxes, it's
not a very equitable system: every-
one pays the same amount, no  mat-
ter how much (or how little) trash
they actually produce.
What is
Fortunately,  there is a system that
can help your MSW management
personnel meet these challenges. In
nearly 2,000 communities across the
country, a program called "pay-as-
you-throw"  is offering residents a
more equitable way to pay for collec-
tion and disposal of their trash-
while, at the same time, encouraging
them to create less waste and increase
the amount  they  recycle.
                                                          Pay-as-you-throw programs, also
                                                          called unit-based or variable-rate pric-
                                                          ing, provide a direct economic incen-
                                                          tive for residents to reduce waste.
                                                          Under pay-as-you-throw, households
                                                          are charged for waste collection based
                                                          on the amount of waste they throw
                                                          away-in the same way that they are
                                                          charged for electricity, gas, and other
                                                          utilities. If they throw away less, they
                                                             pay less. Some communities charge
                                                               residents for each bag or can of
                                                                waste they generate. In a few
                                                                  communities, households
                                                                    are billed based on the
                                                                     weight of their trash.

What are the benefits of
Pay-as-you-throw gives residents greater control
over their costs. While they may not realize it, your
constituents are paying for waste management ser-
vices. And whether they pay through taxes or with
a flat fee, residents who generate less and recycle
more are paying for neighbors that generate two
or even three times as much waste.
When a few residents generate more
waste, everyone pays for it. With pay-
as-you-throw, residents who reduce
and recycle are rewarded with a lower
trash bill.
As a result, households under pay-as-
you-throw tend to generate less waste.
Communities with programs in place
have reported reductions in waste
amounts ranging from 25 to 35 per-
cent, on average. Recycling tends to
increase significantly as well. And less
waste means that a community might
be able to spend less of its municipal
budget on waste collection and dis-
posal-possibly  even  freeing up funds
for other essential services like educa-
tion and police protection.
 Pay-as-you-throw is fair:
residents pay only for the
 waste they throw away.
 Residents who reduce
    and recycle save
 money  and less waste
 helps municipalities cut
       costs, too.
Because residents stand to pay less (if
they generate less), pay-as-you-throw
communities have  typically  reported
strong public support for their pro-
grams. The  initial reaction from resi-
dents can vary, however-some resi-
dents might feel that the program is no
more than an added charge.  To address this, it is
important to explain to residents at the outset how
the program works, why it is a more equitable system,
and how they can benefit from it. Pay-as-you-throw
has tended to work best where elected officials and
other community leaders have reached out  to resi-
dents with a thorough education  campaign.

Many of the resulting programs  have been highly
successful and have often attracted attention. In
Fewer natural resources
  are used and landfill
space is saved, reducing
  the need to site new
some cases, pay-as-you-throw has worked so well
that the communities have become models in their
region, demonstrating how MSW services can be
improved. And within the community, elected offi-
cials can point to pay-as-you-throw as an example of
municipal improvements they helped bring about.

Are there disadvantages to
             While there are potential barriers to a
             successful program, communities with
             pay-as-you-throw report that they
             have found effective solutions. Illegal
             dumping is a frequently raised issue.
             While it is  often assumed that illegal
             dumping will increase once residents
             are asked to pay for each container of
             waste they generate, most communi-
             ties with pay-as-you-throw have found
             this not to  be the case. This is espe-
             cially true when communities offer
             their residents recycling, composting
             for yard trimmings, and other pro-
             grams 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 being used to
             help reduce trash collection costs for
             these households.

             How can I learn more
             about pay-as-you-throw?
                          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, commu-
             nity 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 toll free  at 888-EPA-PAYT.