Response To Reader Comments
by Kim Slack
In our last issue, we published an article by Belmont resident Kim Slack, a member of the town’s recycling and waste committee, advocating for the Pay As You Throw (PAYT) approach to trash collection. One hundred and forty-three Massachusetts communities use PAYT. With PAYT, you pay for each trash bag you want to have collected. The BCF Newsletter received a few notes that offered dissenting views and we invited Slack to respond.
I appreciate everyone’s feedback. I hope this will clarify the benefits of PAYT. Hiding the cost in our taxes for trash disposal is unfair, inefficient, costly, and degrades our environment. Nearly half of Massachusetts’ communities have found the PAYT approach—where those who produce more trash pay more—a workable solution, and our current Republican governor and former Democratic governor both back this approach.
The objections (in italics below) to PAYT raised by some readers are understandable. Allow me to address them.
“It may contribute to illegal dumping.” According to the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, communities that have strong outreach during a transition period (e.g., warning citizens about the fines for dumping), see very few incidents of dumping. Belmont has a per household annual income over $100,000, so it reduces the odds of folks trying to avoid the $2 bag fees due to financial hardship. However, cleanliness is a strong value in Belmont, and many have seen and picked up litter. With the savings from PAYT, the town could afford to do more picking up and litter prevention with public barrels and recycling bins, as well as enforcing dumping laws.
“The 1990 override.” Some feel the town is bound by a decision that was made 26 years ago that raised additional funds in an override to pay for trash and recycling. That decision never prevented the town from charging for trash, yet some believe it still does. Global warming wasn’t as well-known an issue then as it is today. New solutions should not be removed from consideration just because we couldn’t foresee our current situation back in 1990.
“It’s burdensome for low-income families.” Special arrangements could be made for those in low-income housing and seniors on fixed income to provide discounted bags.
“It’s politically challenging.” A 2014 poll by Public Policy Polling of mostly Massachusetts communities with PAYT shows that 79% of residents view it favorably and only 20% claimed that having PAYT made them less likely to vote for the official who implemented it.
Belmont pays more money for a system that produces 25% more trash and greenhouse emissions. Again, I urge citizens to consider this alternative to our current system, and help provide a cleaner environment for all of us.
Kim Slack is a member of Sustainable Belmont.