Pay as you Throw (PAYT) was a proposed municipal waste collection program that would alter the pricing structure of our service. PAYT does not present a positive way forward for Mt. Lebanon.
PAYT more aggressively favors residents of higher valued homes with higher savings, whereas owners of more modest homes would not see any overall savings or would see an increase in collection costs. In this regard, PAYT would act as a tax on owners of property at or below the median value levels, which, according to recent census figures accounts for just under half of Mt. Lebanon’s owner-occupied properties.
The program also assumes a short-term aggressive reduction in solid waste, at which point more savings are shown at a wider level. A 25% reduction of solid waste is a good goal, but without changing other external factors it’s unrealistic to assume we would get close to that so quickly – especially when we experienced a reduction less than 25% over the last 8 years. The PAYT proposal, when considering reductions of less than the assumed 25%, did not present savings for median homes or those valued below median unless just 1 bag of trash is used per week. Our family of four recycles and we also have a solid waste composter – still, we use more than 1 solid waste bag per week. Other similarly sized families would find it difficult to reduce down to just 1 bag per week as well.
In my experience, PAYT models, or versions of it, have resulted in high costs to the homeowner. The plan proposed to commission also did not adequately address future costs, which would likely far outweigh the modest proposed savings proposed we would see now.
We must also consider that once we switch to a PAYT model it is very hard to come back because it would likely require a conversation on tax increases. The overall lack of support for broad-based tax increases creates an atmosphere where residents get stuck with PAYT even as costs for that service continue rising. This means paying perpetually higher waste costs without an increase in service. I suspect that has come up in conversations on profitability at our waste companies’ board meetings.
I would like to see more frequent recycling. We try to recycle as much as possible in our home, still, our recyclables take up a good amount of space on the side of our house and in our garage. Increasing recyclable pickup from every other week to once per week would be a positive change, and not having to store so many recyclables waiting for the next pickup would likely encourage wider adoption of recycling.