Natick, Mass., and the Environmental Benefits of Pay-as-You-Throw

You’ve heard us say before that pay-as-you-throw is good for the environment. And there’s a reason for that: cutting the amount of trash we throw away and recycling more reduces greenhouse gas emissions and saves energy.

That’s true on a global and national scale, but it’s no less true at the scale of individual towns and cities.

Take the town of Natick, Massachusetts, a suburb of Boston. They began PAYT 11 years ago, and in addition to tremendous financial savings–more than $3 million!–their program has also had a profound impact on the environment in that time.

Using a database from the US EPA, we can draw some pretty startling conclusions about just what Natick’s PAYT program has done for the environment:

  • Over these 11 years, the amount of garbage they’ve diverted from their waste-to-energy facility has reduced greenhouse gas emissions by the same amount as the exhaust from 13,000 passenger vehicles.
  • Another way to look at this is to say that they’ve cut the same amount of greenhouse gases as what’s created by 7.5 billion gallons of gasoline (yes, that’s billion with a “b”).
  • In terms of energy savings, by collecting more recyclables instead of sending them to the incinerator, Natick has saved the same amount of energy as what’s needed to fully power 4,900 houses over the 11 years.
  • Or how about this?: Natick’s energy savings from PAYT are equal to the energy output from 69,000 rooftop solar arrays.

So yes, the waste reduction that PAYT enables doesn’t only do great things for “the planet” (although of course it does that too!)–it’s also transformational at the level of individual cities and towns.

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