NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


November 13, 2008

Most people and communities look at energy efficiency as a quick means of reducing their carbon footprint, but a pay-as-you-throw (or PAYT) garbage collection may be more efficient, says Miller-McCune.

The PAYT concept is to pay for garbage to be picked up one bin or bag at a time so that, just like electricity, you are paying for what you use.  Instead of being charged a flat rate by a hauler or an addition to home property taxes, the homeowner pays for each bag or bin of garbage set out for collection. 

This idea is gradually gaining acceptance in the United States; approximately one-quarter of Americans pay their trash bills under such a system, including the entire populations of Minnesota, Oregon and Washington.  And evidence shows that such plans increase recycling and decrease greenhouse gas emissions, that number seems destined to grow.  But not in the United Kingdom.  Resistance to the concept has been vehement, says Miller-Mccune:

  • Great Britain is noted to recycle only 18 percent of its garbage, compared with 58 percent in Germany.
  • The Labor Party government has proposed a "bin tax" and pilot programs are scheduled to get under way in selected municipalities next year.
  • The opposing Conservative Party has vociferously attacked the plan, saying that the only thing bin taxes will do is fuel a surge in "fly tipping" -- the British euphemism for throwing your garbage into your neighbor's can -- and increased backyard burning.
  • Moreover, opponents claim that bin taxes will tempt struggling families to burn their rubbish to avoid charges, endangering public health in the process.

Further, resistance to the idea usually results in illegal dumping and the costs of disposal for large low-income families, people on fixed incomes and those living in multi-unit housing can be a problem.  However, the United States has attempted to address these issues and the results have been successful, says Miller-McCune.

Source: Editorial, "The Coming Scofflaw Problem: Fly Tipping," Miller-McCune, November-December 2008; based upon: Joan Melcher, "Reducing Carbon One Garbage Can at a Time," Miller-McCune, September 3, 2008.


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