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Popular, Easy, and Fair

Our pay-as-you-throw programs are incredibly “sticky”—once a community signs on, it tends to stay with us. There’s a reason for that, and figuring it out isn’t rocket science: PAYT is popular, easy, and fair.

trash garbage recycling

Image courtesy of Flickr via Creative Commons license

In the more than 20 years that WasteZero has been teaming up with towns and cities to deliver PAYT, we’ve seen a 100% retention rate from our partner communities. We didn’t arrive at that figure by rounding up; literally, every community that has ever worked with us on PAYT is still working with us. (One city in Maine, Sanford, went so far as to vote out PAYT in a referendum in 2010, but two years later—after seeing their solid waste volume jump back up—they started talking with us again, and they’re re-starting their program in September.) Others who have looked closely at PAYT have seen the same thing we have. In a 2006 study conducted for the US Environmental Protection Agency by Skumatz Economic Research Associates, more than 98% of households in PAYT programs said they supported their communities’ move to PAYT.

In addition to their popularity, another reason for these programs’ stickiness is how easy they are for residents. Participating in a bag-based PAYT program doesn’t require anybody to learn new processes or to buy new equipment. Quite the opposite: from a resident’s perspective, the structure of a PAYT program is the same as that of the program that preceded it. Literally the only thing that residents need to change is which garbage bag they pull from the shelf in the store. Where residents put their trash and recycling, and how they’re picked up, remain exactly the same.

Finally, PAYT is sticky because it is fair. People who create more waste pay more, while those who create less pay less—an improvement over the current system, where all residents pay equally regardless of how much waste they create. Residents value this system for allowing them to pay for what they throw away but no longer asking them to pay for their neighbors’ waste. They appreciate the inherent fairness of PAYT, and they can easily see its advantage over the unfairness and inefficiency of the old system. Once a PAYT program is in place, it’s nearly impossible for anybody to argue against it—someone who does that would basically be asking their neighbors to subsidize their own wasteful habits. And who would ever do that?

The secret of PAYT’s stickiness is no secret at all: People who take part in these programs like them, and they know that they are easy and fair. And that makes implementing PAYT a sound, defensible, and positive choice for municipal leaders.

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