Feb 10

At Five-Year Anniversary, Gloucester, Mass., Pay-as-You-Throw Purple Bag Program Cuts Solid Waste 29% and Saves More Than $1 Million

Joshua Kolling-Perin
Director, Public Engagement

Raleigh, NC – Feb. 10, 2014 – As it marks the fifth anniversary of converting from pay-as-you-throw using stickers to a bag-based pay-as-you-throw program, the city of Gloucester, Mass., has released figures showing the bags led to a 29% drop in municipal solid waste (MSW). Gloucester’s recycling rate has risen from 23% to 31%, and the move to bags has resulted in a savings of $1,013,731 to the city over the five-year period.

The detailed results for the pay-as-you-throw bag program are as follows:

  • Decreased Solid Waste Volume: Under the last five years of the sticker program, MSW averaged 812 tons per month; since making the switch to pay-as-you-throw using bags, Gloucester’s MSW has averaged just 573 tons per montha 29% decrease. This drop stands significantly higher than the city’s original projection, before the bag program began, that MSW would decrease by 15%.
  • Increased Recycling Rate: Gloucester’s recycling rate over the last 12 months sits at 31%the Massachusetts averageup from 23% in the year before the purple bag program began.
  • Budget Savings: As a result of the reduced MSW volume, the city has spent $1,013,731 less in disposal fees than it would have if its MSW volume had remained constant at the pre-2009 levels.


Before moving to the purple bag program, Gloucester ran a sticker-based pay-as-you-throw program that had begun in 1990. The effectiveness of sticker programs can be limited because they are prone to misuse and pose enforcement challenges for municipalities. Stickers can tear or be cut in half, making it difficult for garbage collectors to identify compliant households and enabling residents who wish to cheat the system to throw away multiple bags with a single sticker. While Gloucester’s sticker program saw some limited success in reducing solid waste and increasing recycling, it did not fully meet the city’s expectations for it. After taking office in 2008, Mayor Carolyn Kirk worked with the city council and the Department of Public Works to make the move from stickers to bags.

About the Program

The bag program, managed by WasteZero, began in February 2009. Under the program, residents participating in the city’s weekly curbside collection dispose of their garbage in purple plastic trash bags imprinted with the city seal that they purchase from retail stores in Gloucester. Paying for each bag of trash they throw away gives residents the incentive to create less waste and recycle more, which reduces disposal costs and generates new revenue. Bags are priced at $1.00 for 13-gallon kitchen bags and $2 for 36-gallon bags.

Mayor Kirk said, “Driving down our disposal costs allows the city to maintain other services important to the citizens of Gloucester, such as our public library, road and sidewalk repair, and maintenance of our school buildings–plus, it’s good for the environment, too.”

WasteZero President Mark Dancy added, “With Mayor Kirk’s outstanding leadership, Gloucester has shown the power of a bag-based pay-as-you-throw system to reduce waste, increase recycling, and save money. We congratulate the city on its performance, and look forward to more excellent results in the future.”

About WasteZero

WasteZero, the leading provider of municipal solid waste reduction programs in the U.S., is on a mission to cut residential trash in half across the nation. WasteZero partners with hundreds of municipalities throughout the U.S. to reduce the amount of waste landfilled and burned, increase recycling, and generate savings. The company helps municipalities design, launch, and manage next-generation pay-as-you-throw systems, in which people pay by the bag for their solid waste services. These programs increase individuals’ awareness of the cost of their trash, reducing solid waste by an average of 44% and doubling or sometimes tripling recycling. In most cases, WasteZero is able to guarantee its municipal customers that its programs will meet or exceed specific waste reduction targets.

WasteZero manufactures the customized specialty plastic trash bags for its programs and other customers in the U.S. from recycled content. It is committed to creating U.S. jobs and to solving the nation’s solid waste crisis. A certified B Corporation, WasteZero is a national organization with key management offices in Raleigh, N.C., and the Boston area, and a manufacturing facility in Hemingway, S.C.

For more information, visit www.wastezero.com.