Letters 11-03-11

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As you roll your 48-gallon trash roll cart down the driveway to deposit it at the curb, do you ever wonder why you are being charged the same fee per month as your neighbor who has a 96-gallon cart overflowing with trash?  
There is another option, and it is known as a Pay-as-you-throw (PAYT) solid waste rate structure.  
With a PAYT rate system residents are charged for trash services based on how much waste they put out every week for disposal.  
By charging for trash services based on roll cart size, a more equitable rate structure is created.  Also, residents are given a financial incentive to reduce trash.  
Over 7,000 communities nationwide have successfully implemented a PAYT rate structure, and it could be a wonderful tool to help reach the sustainability goals of Los Alamos County.  
In fiscal year 2011 (June, 2010 – July, 2011), the average County resident threw away 1,068 lbs of trash.  
As a whole, residents with curbside trash collection disposed of 8,025 tons, the equivalent of 800 trash trucks.  If lined bumper to bumper these trucks would extend for 4.5 miles.  
Pay-as-you-throw has been found to be a cost effective means to drastically reduce the amount of waste generated.  Communities who have successfully implemented PAYT commonly see an annual per capita waste disposal rate of 500 pounds, half of what is currently seen in Los Alamos.  
This decrease results from increased recycling and waste reduction.  Along with helping reduce the community’s environmental impact, PAYT can also result in money savings for waste conscious residents.
At 5:30 p.m. on Thursday Nov. 17, the Environmental Sustainability Board and County staff will be hosting a public forum in order to gather input on the idea of implementing a PAYT rate structure in Los Alamos County.  
The forum will take place at UNM-LA in room 505 of building 5, and will include a brief presentation about the concept of PAYT and potential program design followed by an open community discussion.  
Come out to the forum to learn more and share your opinion on this potential sustainability initiative.  
If you have any questions about the event please contact Tom Nagawiecki at 662-8383.

Tom Nagawiecki
Environmental  specialist

In the Oct. 25 Los Alamos Monitor, there is a story titled, “Technology returns home to LA” about the use of heat pipes in solar thermal domestic hot water systems for the Justice Center and the animal shelter.
In this story, we learn that the cost of the systems are (including the county’s portion as well as grants) $155,000 and $55,000 respectively.  
These systems are estimated to save $2,004 (for the Justice Center) and $450 (for the animal shelter) each year.  
We can see that it will take more than 77 and 122 years respectively, to recoup these costs.  
We also learn that we will now be able to wash down the kennels at the shelter with hot water.
In an opinion piece later in that same paper, Council Chair Sharon Stover says, “We do have to be good stewards of the public’s money ...”
Now I understand that the estimate above does not take into account the growth in energy costs in the future, (which can be “estimated” such that any system can be justified.)  
Aside from that though, all I can say is that such profligacy is nothing but eco-theater.

Paul Rightley
Los Alamos