PAYT - Pay As You Throw Slogans?

Following a listserve in Massachusetts (MassRecycle), I saw some discussion about how to "sell" the idea of "pay as you throw" programs to a suspicious gaggle of residents.   In PAYT programs, residents must pay for each bag of trash, either by purchasing a special garbage bag or by paying for each bag of garbage, or kilogram of trash, brought to the transfer station.

The PAYT model was kicked off in Worcester Massachusetts about 15 years ago, with a lot of support (grant) from Massachusetts DEP / EOEA.  It was credited with source reduction (total MSW tipping weights went way down)... though I think that was a tad dubious (people probably started throwing their trash away elsewhere, bringing it to work or to family in a non-PAYT community).  But I think the increase in recycling was great.  People definitely participated in their curbside recycling programs in Worcester at higher rates than they did in Springfield MA, Boston MA, Brockton, etc.

Notice that if you propose a fee that people don't pay very often - like $10 per TV recycled - that people don't care as much.  I drive over the George Washington Bridge to Manhattan every few years, not often enough to recall what I'm going to pay or to stay resentful over what I paid last time.  However, if you are going to charge me 25 cents more for my garbage every single week, I'm going to be more aware of it.   And people usually come out and protest the PAYT systems when they are proposed.

In those public debates, recyclers and environmentalists don't generally carry more than a swing vote.

The issue comes down to the city or town needs money, and people want to know "what for?".   PAYT is sometimes presented by the town as an environmental measure, and may genuinely be appreciated as such.  But trash budgets, school levies, road work needs, etc. are usually what bring the proposal forward and get the vote from the town selectpeople.

It makes sense for someone who refuses to participate in the recycling program to pay more for the extra trash.  But finding a slogan for that is tricky.

"Recycling Saves Trees".   I've always favored simple slogans that remind people of the good they do from recycling.  A campaign to recycle is not exactly a campaign to pass PAYT, however.  Also, it's risky to associate recycling with the "tax" if you are not pretty darn sure the measure will succeed.  Best to run the "pro recycing" slogan a year or two before the PAYT actually comes up. That would also provide a "control group" period to measure how much Worcester's recycling rate went up because of the PAYT program  - vs. the boost from the advertising.

"Paying more for garbage is good".  That's stupid.  Let's just get that one out of the way.

"Your garbage fees support our schools".  This is usually the type of pro-tax campaign towns are forced to use. 

Generally, associating things with kids sells.    Colors of Benetton, Buster Brown shoes, Basel Action Network - they are all built around pictures of "poster children".   If PAYT can't beat em, maybe join em.

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