Head-to-Head Comparison in Maine: How Does PAYT Stack Up?

We routinely tell cities and towns that a bag-based pay-as-you-throw (PAYT) system will cut residential trash by 44%.  We’re confident in that number because that’s what the data we’ve collected over the years tells us.  Recently, we decided to put that number to the test once again and perform a head-to-head comparison of towns with PAYT vs. towns without PAYT.  What would the data tell us this time?

Our Approach

To start, we reached out to ecomaine, a leading non-profit organization that provides a range of waste disposal, recycling, and waste-to-energy solutions for cities and towns in southern Maine.  ecomaine collects good data on the trash and recycling tonnage they get from their municipal customers.

For fiscal year 2017, we gathered data from 20 towns.  To ensure an “apples to apples” comparison, we gathered data from all municipalities that met the following criteria:

  • Are ecomaine customers
  • Provide curbside trash collection service to residents
  • Provide curbside recycling collection service to residents
  • Have clean data on file with ecomaine

Here are the data points we collected:

  • Population (US Census)
  • Trash tonnage
  • Recycling tonnage
  • Recycling Rate
  • PAYT / No PAYT

The raw data are available from ecomaine, here.  Of the twenty municipalities, 11 have bag-based PAYT systems and 9 have no PAYT at all.

For each municipality, we calculated the average pounds of trash thrown away per person during FY 2017.  Then, we let the chips fall where they may, and we ranked them.

Results Summary

To see the rankings and the full report, Click Here.  However, we’ve outlined some of the top-line findings below:

  • All the PAYT municipalities use bag-based systems
  • 9 of the 10 “greenest” towns (lowest pounds of trash per capita) use PAYT.
  • For PAYT communities, the average pounds of trash per capita was 356 (range was from 235-576 lbs.).
  • For non-PAYT communities, the average pounds of trash per capita was 645 (range was from 482-1,014 lbs.).
  • PAYT communities generated, on average, 44.8% less trash than non-PAYT. There’s that 44% again!
  • For the PAYT communities, the overall average recycling rate was 33.1%.
  • For the non-PAYT communities, the average recycling rate was 20.4%.

Once again, the data tells a very clear story:  PAYT works, and it works quite well.  It’s the single most effective thing a community can do to reduce trash and meet sustainability goals.

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