This month marks eight years of pay-as-you-throw in the Massachusetts town of Ashland, and what an eight years it’s been: solid waste is way down, recycling is way up, and the town has saved almost a million dollars.
Ashland, a town of 16,500, sits about 20 miles west of Boston. They began using their orange-bag PAYT program on July 1, 2006. Since then, they’ve cut solid waste tonnage by 37%—from 5,270 tons in the fiscal year before PAYT to 3,327 tons in the fiscal year that ended on June 30.
That’s not all: While cutting solid waste, Ashland’s residents have also been increasing their recycling. Total recycling tonnage has gone up 47% with PAYT, and the town’s recycling rate has almost doubled, from 17% before PAYT to 34% with it.
Of course, cutting this much waste has a financial benefit, and for Ashland, that benefit has been enormous: they’ve saved almost a million dollars in disposal fees ($983,000, to be precise) across the eight years of PAYT.
There are also major environmental benefits to cutting this much trash and adding this much recycling. Here’s one way to think about it: The amount of garbage that Ashland has diverted from the landfill since 2006 has reduced greenhouse gases by an amount that’s equal to the emissions from 5,500 cars. Here’s another way: The added recycling has saved the same amount of energy that would have been used to power 2,100 houses throughout the whole eight-year period that PAYT has been in Ashland. (In a town with 6,500 housing units, that’s a lot of power!)
If eight years of pay-as-you-throw in Ashland mean more than one-third less trash, double the recycling rate, a million dollars saved, and the equivalent of taking thousands of cars off the road, then we’re excited to see what the next eight years bring.