Re: [GRRN] More on curbside

Roger M. Guttentag (
Sat, 09 Oct 1999 04:05:27 -0400

Dear Bill and list members:

As someone who also pays real business costs with real money at the end of
the month I guess I have the necessary credentials to comment to Bill
McGowan's's comments.

I completely agree with Bill Carter's (so many bills!) comments that PAYT
is not a tax. To say it is completely obliterates meaningful boundaries
between taxation as a governmental assessment on economic transactions or
revenues and user fees which are payments for specific services rendered.

To call PAYT regressive on poor households is, in one sense, both true and
not terribly meaningful, and in another sense, possibly not true either.

Yes, I agree that PAYT can have regressive effects. So what? Poor
households pay a higher percentage of their incomes for all necessary
expenditures. That is what makes them poor. Duh.

There are three possible outcomes, given Bill McG's example of the poor
household slapped with suddenly higher PAYT costs.

1. It can cut back on how much is thrown away.
2. It can engage in illegal dumping.
3. It can pay the PAYT cost and cut back somewhere else.

It is my understanding that illegal dumping rates do not escalate after the
adoption of PAYT. Therefore outcomes 1 or 3 seem the most likely. If
outcome 1 is chosen, then PAYT does not necessarily lead to an economically
regressive outcome.

If outcome 3 happens, well, that's life. Hopefully, Bill McG. will not
respond by saying that yes this is exactly what's happening and the PAYT is
being paid by taking food out of kid's mouths. Well, maybe PAYT is causing
a rise in malnutrition rates in America. We may need to look into this.

In conclusion, assuming that the PAYT rates are set fairly I don't see
anything oppressive in encouraging people, poor or not poor, to make their
own decisions over how to handle their household costs through clear
pricing signals. Duh again.

I have other comments on Bill McG.'s thoughts on curbside program economics
but they will have to wait for now.


Roger M. Guttentag
At 10:21 PM 10/08/1999 -0700, William P McGowan wrote:
>On Fri Oct 8 199, Bill McGowan replied;
>There are some really big holes in Bill Carter's reply to my post that are
>well camouflaged by all that text.
>PAYT is not a "tax," well that's fine and danady, but carter never
>really addresses the regressivity part, does he? If a person earning
>less than $16,000 a year has a garbage bill onf $35 one month and one
>based on a PAYT system of $42, then the percentage of her income
>dedicated to garbage/recycling has increased. The person p0aying the bill
>does not care whether this increased portion of her income is taken away
>from her by something called a "tax" or a "recycling service fee." the
>effect is the same.
>As to the "costs" of running a curbside recycling program, they are
>real, for even Mr. Carter allows for a loss if a system is selling its
>material at a loss. In this case, Carter's assertion that recycling
>programs lose less money as they increase the volume can be stood on its
>head. Consider an example of not too long ago:
>In June, Baled #6 News was selling for $70 a ton, delivered to the mill.
>If curbside collectio only costs $15 a ton, which is low, that leaves
>the recycler (or garbage company) only $55 from which to make a profit.
>Since baling costs in the neighborhood of $30 a ton, and transportation
>to the mill another $20 a ton, we have a net profit, in good markets,
>of maybe $5 a ton. But remember, that because most MRF news does not
>command a premium price, this $70 buy price is for onlky the very best
>material. Since everything since the sale price is fixed, a dip of ten
>dollars can push and entire program into the red--which is where most
>operate without subsidy from the garbage bill. Consider losing $10 a ton
>across 1000 tons a month, and you see what I mean abt the cost of
>carter may be right from a systems point of view, that by redirecting
>recyclables out of waste we are genmerating svaings that escape into the
>ether. My perspective comes from that of one who has to pay the bills
>with real money at the end of each month.
>Bill McGowan
>History UCSB/Rincon Recycling