Our partner community Bath, Maine celebrated five years of pay-as-you-throw last fall, and the results were astounding. Bath is a coastal community of around 8,500 residents, known as the “City of Ships” for its rich shipbuilding history. Bath’s program combines PAYT with curbside single-stream recycling for around 3,000 households, and over their first five years they found that they cut their solid waste tonnage by 60%, and they increased their recycling volume by 35%.
In the year before the program began in October 2007, the city was collecting a monthly average of 215 tons of curbside trash and an average of 46 tons of recycling. They knew they could do better for their municipal finances and for the environment, and they were right. With PAYT, those monthly averages had improved dramatically by 2012—to an average of 87 tons of curbside trash and 63 tons of recycling. What’s more, Bath’s curbside recycling rate last year was an impressive 41%.
The benefits of those changes aren’t just theoretical. The city saw significant tipping fee savings, and increased revenue from the sale of recyclable goods. It has also allowed Bath residents to pay only for the trash they throw out, no longer subsidizing their neighbors’ waste disposal costs. And it has freed up valuable municipal budget dollars for other important civic responsibilities. Among other great examples, one year into the program, Bath officials were able to redirect some of the funds they would have been spending on tipping fees to upgrade their landfill, constructing a gas management system to address odor and safety issues at the site—without adding to the residential property tax burden.
Half a decade in, with less solid waste, more recycling, and more funds in their municipal coffers, it’s safe to say that the City of Ships is sailing in the right direction with pay-as-you-throw.