Worcester’s Big Anniversary

The pay-as-you-throw program in Worcester, Mass. celebrates its twentieth anniversary next week, and the city has put up some big numbers to mark the occasion:

  • 400,000 tons of trash diverted
  • 200,000 tons of additional recycling
  • Savings of more than $10 million in waste disposal costs
  • Per-capita disposal of 396 pounds of waste per year—44% of the national average
  • 43% recycling rate, among the best in Massachusetts and far higher than the statewide average of 30%

All in all, over 20 years of PAYT, Worcester—the second-largest city in New England, with nearly 183,000 residents—has cut its residential trash by more than half and increased residential recycling 10-fold.


When Worcester kicked things off in November 1993, it was facing a municipal budget crisis, and it was looking ahead to new state waste reduction and recycling mandates. Moving the city to pay-as-you-throw took some “political courage,” in the words of Public Works Commissioner Bob Moylan, who added, “But it’s proven to be effective.” In the program’s first week, Worcester’s recycling rate skyrocketed from 2% to 38%, and their solid waste volume dropped 47% between the year before the program and the year after. As Moylan said, “If communities are serious about recycling, they will embrace pay-as-you-throw.”

Today, after 20 years, Worcester stands as a dazzling pay-as-you-throw success story in a large city with a diverse population. Here’s to many more decades of success!

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