Back when garbage was taken to the town dump, it was more expensive to collect than dispose of.waste. Residents paid low, flat-rate collection fees. Today, the town dump has been closed or upgraded to protect human health and the environment. Collection and disposal costs have risen sharply as a result of meeting environmental standards and hauling waste further away. By 1991, the statewide average cost of disposal was $47 per ton.
Some communities are questioning the fairness of flat-rate fees. To make costs more equitable, these municipalities are charging variable collection rates, which are similar to utility bills in that the charge is based on the homeowner's usage.
Besides promoting an equitable cost structure, a variable rate impacts powerfully on waste management by PLACING THE BURDEN FOR REDUCING COSTS ON THE WASTE GENERATOR. A flat rate does not provide incentive to reduce waste or recycle. A family that recycles pays the same amount for trash removal as a family that does not. But a variable rate that enable residents to reduce disposal costs provides an incentive to reduce waste and recycle as much as possible.
Combining a per-bag fee with a comprehensive waste reduction and recycling program (including municipal composting and intensive public education) can drastically reduce the amount of waste requiring disposal. The following diversion amounts can be expected under optimal conditions:
As much as 61 percent could be diverted from the municipality waste stream under optimal conditions. Under normal conditions, a diversion goal of 50 percent is reasonable and achievable.
There are three main considerations in designing and implementing a variable rate waste collection program:
There are currently (2004) about 213 Pay as You Throw programs in Pennsylvania. Communities indicated that the most common error in planning a program is too little public information BEFORE the program is implemented. Citizens need to know how the program will work, where to buy bags or stickers, how much they will cost, when trash will be collected, and how the program will benefit them. Citizens must also be told how to reduce costs through recycling, composting and waste reduction.
The municipalities also recommended the following:
Carlisle (Cumberland Co.) combines a per-bag fee system with curbside recycling for seven of the eight materials listed in Act 101, and comprehensive public education on recycling, waste reduction, and composting. The borough's recycling rate averaged over 32 percent during the first 40 weeks of program operation and saved $83,504 in avoided disposal costs--a projected annual savings of $108,556 for a population of about 20,000.
Perkasie (Bucks Co.) residents have a choice of buying 40-pound or 20-pound trash bags. The borough provides curbside recycling for newspaper, aluminum, glass, and corrugated paper; drop-off recycling is available for plastics. The program resulted in a 193 percent increase in recycling and a 41 percent decrease in the amount of waste requiring disposal. Perkasie's waste reduction level before recycling is estimated at 18 percent.
Forest City's (Susquehanna Co.) per-bag fee complements drop-off recycling and curbside collection of yardwaste. The combined programs decreased the amount of waste requiring disposal by more than 50 percent.
This fact sheet is a summary of a report (same title) published by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. For a full copy of this report, please contact us at our recycling e-mail address: email@example.com
Department of Environmental Protection
Bureau of Land Recycling and Waste Management
Rachel Carson State Office Building
P.O. Box 8472
Harrisburg, Pa 17105-8472
Please print on recycled paper
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