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Pay-as-you-throw is a SMART move

From an economic and environmental justice standpoint, unit based pricing, known as Save Money, Reduce Trash (SMART) or Pay-As-You-Throw (PAYT) is a fairer approach to trash funding that will benefit New London’s low-income residents in important ways. In a recent study in Maine, in cities that have PAYT the per capita waste was 356 pounds vs. 645 pounds in towns that did not use PAYT.

First, waste incineration facilities are disproportionately located in or next to low-income neighborhoods. While little can be done to change where current incineration is sited, substantially reducing waste volumes materially impacts the need to build additional facilities in these areas.

Second, by lowering the cost of waste collection at a system level, SMART lowers the amount of money low-income residents must spend on trash. Low-income residents pay for higher trash costs either directly through taxes or indirectly through higher rents. SMART lowers disposal costs, which benefits everyone and helps contain or reduce the costs passing through to residents. SMART provides low-income residents spending flexibility and a means to control their bag purchase costs through recycling, composting, or reuse.

 Finally, cities and towns have finite budgets, so money spent on incineration is money that cannot be spent on other municipal services with greater benefits for citizens with lower incomes.

Neil Seldman

Institute for Local Self-Reliance

Washington, D.C.

 

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