Nov 22

Worcester, Mass. Marks 20th Anniversary of Pay-As-You-Throw Program, Celebrates Waste Diversion and Recycling Success

Joshua Kolling-Perin
Director, Public Engagement
o: 919.322.1207

Raleigh, NC – Nov. 22, 2013 – The award-winning pay-as-you-throw (PAYT) program in Worcester, Mass. marks twenty years of extremely successful operations this month. The program–which WasteZero manufactures bags for and supports with Retail Store Distribution™–began on Nov. 29, 1993. Since then, the city has cut its residential trash by more than half and increased residential recycling 10-fold. The success of Worcester–the second-largest city in New England, with nearly 183,000 residents–stands as a testament not only to the success of the program, but also to the city’s standing as a leader on solid waste issues.


  • Accounting for population growth, Worcester has cumulatively diverted 400,000 tons of trash, moving from 43,228 tons disposed in 1992 to a projected 20,341 tons in 2013.
  • The city has captured 200,000 tons of added recycling, moving from 880 tons in 1992 to a projected 9,465 tons in 2013.
  • The city has saved more than $10 million dollars in waste disposal costs, according to Robert Fiore, Assistant to the Public Works Commissioner.
  • Worcester disposes of 396 pounds of waste per capita per year, just 44% of the national average of 900 pounds.
  • The city now has a 43% recycling rate, among the highest in the Commonwealth-and far above the Massachusetts average of 30%.

Worcester Public Works Commissioner Robert L. Moylan Jr., said, “If communities are serious about recycling, they will embrace pay-as-you-throw.” He added, “It takes political courage, but it’s proven to be effective.”

“We couldn’t be more proud of Worcester as they celebrate 20 successful years of pay-as-you-throw,” WasteZero President Mark Dancy said. “They have been a leader from the very beginning, and they are continuing to innovate as they look ahead to their third decade.”


Program Background

When the program began, Worcester was facing a municipal budget crisis that was compounded by impending state waste reduction and recycling mandates. The city converted its residential solid waste program to a bag-based PAYT program, in which residents dispose of their garbage in customized, city-approved plastic trash bags that they purchase from local retail stores. 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.

Prior to its implementation in Worcester, PAYT had been adopted primarily by relatively smaller and/or suburban communities. Worcester’s experience showed that PAYT could also work in a large, post-industrial city with a diverse population.

After just the first week of the program, Worcester’s recycling rate grew from 2% to 38%, and resident compliance was nearly 100%, according Moylan. Moylan, who will retire at the end of this year after 42 years with the city, has called the implementation of PAYT one of his proudest accomplishments.

The program’s immediate impact was dramatic, with MSW dropping from 43,288 tons in 1992 (the first full year before implementation) to 22,810 tons in 1994 (the first full year after), a 47% reduction. As a result, the city cut its tipping fee spending from $1.2 million in 1992 to $660,000 in 1994, a $552,000 reduction.

Worcester’s PAYT program was awarded the Garden Club of America’s Civic Improvement Certificate of Acknowledgement in 2005, in recognition of its improvements in recycling.

The city has continued to enhance the program to encourage residents to further reduce waste and increase recycling. They began offering a smaller 15-gallon trash bag in 1995, and they introduced single-stream recycling in 2008. In September 2013, Worcester began a pilot program to evaluate the efficacy of using clear plastic recycling bags instead of traditional plastic bins.

About WasteZero

WasteZero is the leading provider of municipal solid waste reduction programs in the US.  The company is on a mission to cut residential trash in half across the nation. WasteZero partners with more than 800 municipalities throughout the United States to reduce the amount of waste that is landfilled or burned, increase recycling, and generate savings.  It pursues its mission by helping municipalities design, launch, and manage next-generation pay-as-you-throw (PAYT) systems, known as WasteZero Trash Metering™ programs.  These programs eliminate or reduce fixed residential fees for trash collection, and enable residents to dispose of trash only in official, pre-paid trash bags.  These programs reduce solid waste by more than 46% annually, on average. They also help to dramatically increase recycling rates, sometimes by 100% or more.

WasteZero manufactures customized plastic trash bags for its programs-and for other customers-in the US from recycled content. It is committed to creating jobs in the US and to solving the nation’s solid waste crisis.  WasteZero is based in Raleigh, NC, has a manufacturing plant in Hemingway, SC, and maintains regional offices around the country.  The company is also a certified B Corporation.

For more information, visit www.wastezero.com.