What Six Years of Pay-as-You-Throw Looks Like

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: pay-as-you-throw just plain works.

The latest example? The southeastern Massachusetts town of Dartmouth, which marked six years of PAYT in October. In that time, they’ve cut their trash by 59% and boosted their recycling by 50%.

Let’s say that again, in case those numbers snuck by you the first time: Fifty-nine percent less trash–that’s just two pounds thrown away today for every five pounds thrown away before the program. Fifty percent more recycling–that’s one extra can recycled for every two cans thrown away in 2007. Those are some seriously meaningful numbers. And they’re all thanks to pay-as-you-throw.

According to data from the town, in the year before the program began, Dartmouth residents sent 10,742 tons of garbage to the town’s landfill—but by 2013, that number had dropped to just 4,370 tons. And recycling shot up, from 1,626 tons right before PAYT to 2,432 tons last year.

When you put those two trends together on a graph, you see the beauty of PAYT: trash and recycling swap places, with one going down while the other goes up.


It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand why this happens. As Dave Hickox, the Public Works Director in Dartmouth, told the New Bedford Standard-Times last fall, asking people to pay for each bag they throw away “makes residents take a second look at what you can really recycle.”

And when you take a second look at what you can recycle, you make less trash—as our friends in Dartmouth know as well as anybody.

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