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[GreenYes] PAYT in New York City
Here's the text of an op-ed piece that ran in today's 
New York Daily News on pay-as-you-throw in New 
York City.



TO REDUCE TRASH, PAY AS WE TOSS

By STEVE HAMMER 
Mayor Bloomberg's new garbage plan for the city 
has received mixed reviews. Community 
advocates and environmentalists are rightfully 
pleased the mayor wants to move waste around 
in a less polluting manner, using our waterways 
rather than our surface streets and highways.

The bad news is the plan does little to reduce the 
$1 billion the city spends on waste services each 
year. The plan reacts to the garbage problem 
instead of addressing the cause.

Typical New Yorkers have no idea the trash 
services they receive are valued at $322 per year 
per household, or that each 20-gallon trash bag 
they throw out drains $2.52 from city coffers. 
Municipal waste services are a hidden cost, paid 
for out of local property taxes.

Trash services in households in other cities, 
including San Jose, Calif.; Austin, Tex., and 
Buffalo, are metered like other utilities and billed 
directly. The more trash they throw away, the more 
they pay, giving them an incentive to trim their 
waste line.

Studies of cities using these Pay-As-You-Throw 
programs have found that waste typically declines 
by 17% after PAYT is implemented. In New York, 
reductions of this magnitude could save the city 
more than $100 million a year.

The program is also a potent revenue source. 
Most communities set the fees so they pay 100% 
of their municipal waste system budget. Other 
communities, such as Los Angeles, use a 
modified system, letting property taxes pay for the 
collection of two trash cans each week. Anything 
over that threshold costs the household an 
additional fee.

Critics (including some at the city's Sanitation 
Department) are quick to point out that the 
program would be tough to implement. It's hard to 
meter waste when tenants use a communal trash 
room in their apartment building's basement.

The easiest alternative - billing landlords for the 
trash on the curb and letting them split the cost 
among tenants - is difficult under rent-control and 
rent-stabilization rules. Illegal dumping is also a 
concern, as people may try to avoid payment by 
throwing trash in a vacant lot.

Such problems are not insurmountable, however. 
Rent-control rules can be rewritten. Research 
elsewhere has found that illegal dumping tends 
to be more of a perceived threat than a true 
problem. Rates can be structured to ensure that 
the program doesn't unfairly penalize low-income 
households.

I'm optimistic the mayor will embrace the program 
because he made his fortune helping investors 
access data that allowed them to make better 
purchasing decisions.

PAYT operates the same way. Households 
wouldn't necessarily spend less, but they would 
have an incentive to buy products that reduce their 
trash, such as items with less packaging.

In a city the size of New York, such little changes 
can quickly add up. The process of evaluating 
PAYT's role in New York's long-term waste 
management system should therefore 
commence immediately. The longer the delay, the 
deeper the budget gap, and the further we remain 
from a truly comprehensive solution that 
addresses the front and back ends of our waste 
problem.



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