- Special Sections
- Public Notices
In the Nov. 3 Los Alamos Monitor, there is a View Point discussing claimed environmental benefits for the “Pay-As-You-Throw” (PAYT) rate structure for trash pickup.
Contrary to the conclusion of that writer, the PAYT system is an environmentally harmful system and is also inequitable for the following reasons:
•In communities that have implemented such systems, the resulting expensiveness of trash pickup and the perceived unfairness of the system result in wide-spread “wildcat” dump sites. This was the experience of Tucson, Ariz., where I lived previously. In western cities like ours, most people have ready access to pickup trucks and large vehicles, and thus driving out into the forest (or desert) and dumping your trash is easy. People feel justified in doing this because they perceive that they are being charged an exorbitant rate compared to their neighbor (who has the means to live alone) who gets charged less.
•The resulting “wildcat” dump sites encourage other people to do the same. The dumpsites are dangerous in public health terms and in their environmental impact.
•People who live together in the same household do generate more trash than a person living alone. However, the amount of trash generated per person is less at the home where more people live compared to the person living alone due to economies of packaging. The “Sam’s Club” size detergent box contains more product per square inch of packaging. Thus, the person living singly will go through four boxes of packaging compared to the single large box used in the multi-person home.
• People who live together (for example, a home with 4 to 6 persons living there) and share a 96-gallon trash cart cause the county to stop to pick up trash only once. If they were living singly (using the smaller 48-gallon trash can), the city would have to pick up trash at 4 to 6 places instead of just one! People who live together and share a trash cart yield a significant savings for the city and the environment due to significantly less garbage pick-up time.
•People living together at a residence and sharing a recycle bin yield significantly more valuable recyclables, which offset the costs of doing the recycling, per pickup stop than a household where there are only one or two people living. In fact, multi-person homes have a built-in incentive to do more recycling wherever possible because the trash cart will get too full otherwise. On the contrary, for persons living alone, the amount of recyclables accumulates so slowly that the person living there begins to believe it is not important and instead throws recyclable waste in the regular waste cart.
•The PAYT system is unfair because it charges persons who share a home or apartment more for waste pickup than the person who can afford to live alone (heating and lighting and watering their home and yard, etc. for just one person). Although the shared-home arrangement is more environmentally friendly, the more environmentally-impacting arrangement of living singly is rewarded with a lower waste disposal fee. Similarly, although the city saves money by not having to go to several different homes to pick up trash when people share a home, those people are charged more for their trash to be picked up. This extra charge amounts to a regressive tax because it is levied on people who have lesser income per capita and cannot afford to live singly.
In the View Point column, it was claimed that the PAYT structure resulted in per capita waste disposal rates half of our current rates.
There is no convincing explanation of why charging more to pick up trash reduces the amount of trash produced.
People still need to eat, wear clothing, and in short, consume articles for day-to-day living to the same degree.
So what happened to drop the amount of trash produced by half? I am dubious of these miraculous-sounding results.