How to Talk About Pay-as-You-Throw

Pay-as-you-throw works: that much we know.

With an average waste reduction of 44%, and dramatic financial and environmental benefits, there’s really no question that PAYT is wise public policy. But the politics of pay-as-you-throw can be trickier. People naturally resist many kinds of change, and changing a system as personal as trash can feel especially troubling. What’s more, at first glance, PAYT can often appear to be more complicated and expensive than it actually is.

So, how to bridge the gap between politics and policy? It’s not complicated: When municipal leaders talk to their residents, in specific terms, about just how PAYT will help them, they are far more likely to see their PAYT proposal through to approval. As WasteZero’s Steve Lisauskas explained last week at the annual R3 Conference hosted by MassRecycle, the Massachusetts recycling coalition, here are some of the most persuasive points:

  • Financially: While it may seem counterintuitive, pay-as-you-throw means lower household expenses in almost all cases–partly because it lowers the municipality’s cost of delivering the service, and partly because the average PAYT household only uses 1.2 large bags each week.
  • Operationally: When cities and towns create less trash, their staff can use some of the time they used to spend collecting garbage to expand other services, like bulky item pickup, loose limb collection, and road repairs.
  • Environmentally: PAYT is one of the single most effective ways to limit damage to air, water, and soil; reduce greenhouse gas emissions; and save energy–making the environment cleaner and healthier for this generation and those that follow.
  • Practically: People’s household practices don’t really change with PAYT–they buy bags, just like before, and they dispose of them the same way they always have.
Steve L MassRecyc

Those facts, supported by a strong public education campaign, can make the difference between a good idea and a program that transforms a city.

Want to learn more? Check out the presentation Steve delivered at the MassRecycle conference:

How to Talk About Pay-as-You-Throw from WasteZero

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