Pay-as-you-throw is a SMART move

The Day - - OPINION -

From an eco­nomic and en­vi­ron­men­tal jus­tice stand­point, unit based pric­ing, known as Save Money, Re­duce Trash (SMART) or Pay-As-You-Throw (PAYT) is a fairer ap­proach to trash fund­ing that will ben­e­fit New Lon­don’s low-in­come res­i­dents in im­por­tant ways. In a re­cent study in Maine, in cities that have PAYT the per capita waste was 356 pounds vs. 645 pounds in towns that did not use PAYT.

First, waste in­cin­er­a­tion fa­cil­i­ties are dis­pro­por­tion­ately lo­cated in or next to low-in­come neigh­bor­hoods. While lit­tle can be done to change where cur­rent in­cin­er­a­tion is sited, sub­stan­tially re­duc­ing waste vol­umes ma­te­ri­ally im­pacts the need to build ad­di­tional fa­cil­i­ties in these ar­eas.

Sec­ond, by low­er­ing the cost of waste col­lec­tion at a sys­tem level, SMART low­ers the amount of money low-in­come res­i­dents must spend on trash. Low-in­come res­i­dents pay for higher trash costs ei­ther di­rectly through taxes or in­di­rectly through higher rents. SMART low­ers dis­posal costs, which ben­e­fits ev­ery­one and helps con­tain or re­duce the costs pass­ing through to res­i­dents. SMART pro­vides low-in­come res­i­dents spend­ing flex­i­bil­ity and a means to con­trol their bag pur­chase costs through re­cy­cling, com­post­ing, or re­use.

Fi­nally, cities and towns have fi­nite bud­gets, so money spent on in­cin­er­a­tion is money that can­not be spent on other mu­nic­i­pal ser­vices with greater ben­e­fits for cit­i­zens with lower in­comes. Neil Seld­man In­sti­tute for Lo­cal Self-Reliance Wash­ing­ton, D.C.

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