Of all things to write about, I’m very excited about the ‘pay as you throw’ system of garbage collection. It’s when I noticed how well I was doing with it, lately, that I realized how it can be an excellent way for communities to manage their garbage.
This is how it works in Dubuque. You pay a monthly fee (under $10 I believe, it is part of the water bill) for garbage pick up. This fee is for one standard sized can. You can pay extra for a larger can, or if you have the occasional extra garbage, you can buy stickers ($1.25 each) to stick on the handle of another can, or on a bag or larger (within reason) item.
Recycling is free. There are a lot of items recycled here, we take more plastic than they did in NYC. No matter how much garbage you have to recycle, they will pick it up for free.
They also have yearly yard stickers (that you pay extra for during the spring/summer/fall), or stickers for yard waste. Some communities have food scrap pickup, but there is a waiting list to get on that.
I come from Brooklyn, where you would have two cans picked up twice a week. Here it is the one can plus recyclables once a week. I have now managed to consistently stay within my allotment.
In Brooklyn, you got tickets for not putting your recycling where it belonged. Put a soda bottle or box in a trash bag, get a fine. Here, put that in a trash bag, and waste valuable space.
I never cared much about fines, although I did recycle. I do care about having to run and get stickers if I go over. I’ve become competent at squishing boxes nicely, and spend more time than I used to contemplating packaging when shopping. I enjoy my bagged milk, for example. It takes hardly any space at all, and recyclable!
I know there is a concern about someone using your garbage to throw their extra stuff out. It has happened, and I’ve seen it happen occasionally. But I am sure there are measures in place to minimize that. In places that patrol garbage for a can mixed in with paper, they could use those people to fine those who misuse garbage that way. Or roll it out in communities where this is less likely to be a problem.
So, pay as you throw not only has increased my recycling, but it has decreased the amount of packaging I use. It’s changed the way I think about what I bring into the house. This is a positive change that is good for me, and my environment. More communities should look to pay as you throw as a way to increase recycling, and decrease what goes into landfills. The carrot (saving money) works better than the stick (paying fines), I think.