Pay As You Throw (PAYT) - Big Savings for Greenwich
The FY2020-2021 Budget presented many challenges to our Town, including drastic increases in waste removal and recycling costs. To mitigate the impact, the First Selectman’s FY2020-2021 Budget includes a Pay As You Throw (PAYT) system for waste management. This page is intended to be a one-stop-shop for PAYT. Below you will find information and documentation related to PAYT. We update this page with new information and documents throughout the budget process.
Taxpayers currently pay about $3.7million per year to have trash transported from Holly Hill Transfer Station to an incinerator. Residents and businesses have no control over their direct trash costs. Good recyclers and people who produce little trash are forced to subsidize people who don’t recycle and properties that produce lots of trash.
Waste disposal costs continue to rise and, starting in the upcoming fiscal year, the Town will also have to pay (for the first time) to have recycling removed from Holly Hill.
Pay-As-You-Throw (PAYT) is the best solution, recommended by both the EPA and CT DEEP, for reducing trash and saving taxpayers money. There are over 500 PAYT communities in New England. Data shows the program is extremely effective – in Massachusetts alone communities with PAYT produce 65% less trash per household than communities without.
How would this work? Starting October 1, 2020, instead of throwing trash away in regular trash bags, residents and businesses would use an official Town trash bag, available for purchase at retail locations throughout town. The price of the official Town bag is based directly on the expense the Town pays to have trash incinerated. This gives everyone personal control over their direct trash cost – just like water, electric, cable, and all utilities. Reduce your trash, reduce your cost! Other than switching trash bags, everything else stays the same.
PAYT has strong financial benefits for Greenwich taxpayers because it reduces total trash & ends current subsidies, as well as proven significant benefits for the environment.
We Have a Trash (and Recycling) Problem
Here are the major problems we’re trying to solve.
1) Starting this year, we have to pay for recycling removal. It’s not cheap
Historically, the Town earned revenue on recycling materials. Then in recent years, recycling has been removed at no charge to the Town. Starting in Fiscal Year 2020-2021, due to changes in the current worldwide recycling market, the Town will have to pay a tip fee for recycling removal on a per ton basis. If we do nothing, this will be a new annual expense of about $912,000 this year and will increase to almost $1,200,000 next year.
2) Annual waste tonnage has remained constant - and expensive
The Town experienced reductions in total waste tonnage in the early part of the previous decade, largely due to public education efforts and the introduction of single-stream recycling. Unfortunately, annual municipal solid waste tonnage has remained constant for the the last few years, at about 37,000 tons per year. Trash removal is not free. Private trash haulers, as well as residents, bring their waste to the Holly Hill Transfer Station. The Town has to pay to have the collection of waste removed. Removing waste from Greenwich cost taxpayers about $4 million per year. With the new recycling removal expense, that rises to about $5 million per year.
3) If we do nothing about waste, taxes will go up to cover waste removal
Without PAYT, taxes will increase in FY21 by 3.42% - the highest tax increase in Greenwich in almost 10 years. We get no additional services (schools, police, fire, parks) for this increase.
Without PAYT, taxes will increase in FY21 by 3.42% - the highest tax increase in Greenwich in almost 10 years.
4) Our current system is unfair - taxpayers subsidize high-waste producers
Without change, our current waste management system is unfair. Unlike other utilities (i.e. water, electric), all taxpayers in Greenwich pay the same for waste disposal because it’s buried in the general property tax rate. Therefore, low waste producers and really good recyclers subsidize high waste producers and people that don’t recycle. If you only throw out one bag of garbage per week and your neighbor throws out ten, you both pay the same amount! The current system offers no incentive to reduce individual waste production.
Best Solution: Pay As You Throw
Pay As You Throw solves the Town’s trash problem. It is a fiscally responsible waste management system in which each person pays for exactly how much garbage they throw out. Here’s how it would work:
- The Town will contract with a vendor who will distribute uniquely marked trash bags at commercial locations throughout Town (grocery stores, gas stations, pharmacies, etc) - and directly to private hauling companies if they wish.
- Residents and businesses will purchase the official Town garbage bags instead of generic ones. Bags will be offered in a variety of sizes and prices, ranging from 13 gallons (about $1.25) to 33 gallons (about $2.00). The revenue from bag sales, minus an administrative fee paid to the vendor, goes directly to the Town to cover waste disposal expenses.
- Starting October 1, 2020, the Town’s Transfer Station will no longer accept trash that is not in an official Town bag. All garbage will need to be placed in the official Town bag.
- Everything else remains the same. Private haulers will pick up garbage in the official Town bag just as they pick up garbage in generic bags. Residents that bring their garbage directly to the transfer station can still do so, only the bag they bring it in will be an official Town bag.
Pay As You Throw Benefits
1) Expenses go down due to waste reduction & Revenue goes up
PAYT changes behavior simply by exposing people to the direct cost of trash removal. By moving the trash expense from the general property tax rate to the per-bag fee, residents and business are more conscious about what they throw out, reuse more, recycle more, and participate in other waste diversion programs (i.e. composting, textile drop-offs).
Because the cost of waste disposal is no longer subsidized by general taxes, revenues more accurately reflect the true cost of disposal. This results in FY2020-2021 an anticipated revenue to the Town of $2,796,385, if implemented on October 1, 2020.
Greenwich anticipates a waste reduction of about 40% in FY2020-2021, resulting in a savings of $934,680
PAYT changes behavior simply by exposing people to the direct cost of trash removal.
2) No big tax increase in FY2020-2021
Without PAYT in this budget, Greenwich will experience the second highest tax increase in 10 years and will have no sustainable solution to the trash and recycling crisis for the next budget year. PAYT produces a Town budget within BET guidelines and addresses waste management, which the BET identified as an area of concern in FY2020-2021.
3) Easy implementation & no major upfront capital investment required
Implementing PAYT requires no upfront capital investment. Modifications at the Transfer Station are not required. Private trash haulers that collect throughout Town would not have to modify their vehicles or install expensive equipment.
The only change is the bag we put our garbage in will now be an official Town garbage bag.
4) Fairer system for residents and businesses
Under our current system, everyone pays the same amount for waste disposal services, regardless of how much trash they produce or recycle. PAYT puts personal and fiscal responsibility into waste management because each person and business is directly responsible for their trash production, just like other utilities. PAYT empowers residents to have control over their own waste disposal rates and costs. Greenwich currently rewards high-waste producers and poor recyclers because they bear no burden of that expense. The opposite occurs under PAYT, which incentivizes residents and businesses that reduce waste production and are good at recycling.
PAYT is the "single most effective tool a community can implement to reduce waste," according to Connecticut Department of Energy & Environmental Protection (CT DEEP). In fact, CT DEEP has been studying PAYT for decades and it is one of their top municipal policy recommendations for environmental impact. Due to the waste reduction power, municipal adoption of PAYT is critical to avoiding another trash incinerator in Connecticut, which is planned to cost taxpayers nearly $330 million in public financing. PAYT in Greenwich will provide significant environmental benefits, according to the CT DEEP.
Note: You may hear "Pay As You Throw" referred to as SMART (Save Money and Reduce Trash), which is what CT DEEP calls it. It’s the same thing.
It’s Fair to Ask - What’s The Impact On Me?
PAYT shifts disposal costs to users and gives residents & businesses more personal control over their expenses on waste management.
Tipping Fee vs Pay As You Throw
A tipping fee was also considered as a solution to help offset the FY2020-2021 impact of the new $912,000 recycling expense. However, the Town chose the PAYT solution over a tipping fee for many reasons, including the changes in behavior that reduce trash, the significant operating savings from trash reduction, the increased fairness in managing waste costs, and the massive positive environmental impact.
Here is a more detailed comparison of Tipping Fee vs Pay As You Throw.
Related Documents, Reports, & Analysis
Here is a one-stop-shop resource for all of our related presentations, reports, and analysis.
Want more information? Here are some great resources to learn about pay-as-you-throw, also know as save money and reduce trash (SMART).
If you have any questions about Pay As You Throw, please don’t hesitate to contact First Selectman Fred Camillo’s Office at 203-622-7710 or email his Executive Assistant Barbara Heins at Barbara.Heins@greenwichct.org.