In the Wall Street Journal article "Kicking the Cans" of July 29, 2008 (subscription required) the reporter Robert Tomsho, has some very interesting arguments that have to brought to the forefront about the fundamental issue of 'Should residents pay for waste pick up collectively?  Or personally?' Towns and cities all over the nation are struggling with this balance between the collective and the personal. Robert the highlights the debate in Plymouth Massachusetts, which is only 70 miles east and south of Northborough MA.

Plymouth town officials planned a Pay As You Throw (PAYT) program to require residents to pay $1.25 per bag and $65 annually, and seniors just $40 for trash removal. The town would continue to handle recyclables such as plastics, cans, paper and lawn clippings free. Residents immediately responded negatively. The article makes it clear that few Plymouth residents are speaking out against the concept of recycling but they just find the time to adjust too fast – the system was to go into place on July 1 even though residents had public meetings in March on the topic. 

The article mentions that the EPA has said that about 7,100 cities and towns were using PAYT in 2006, which is up from 5,200 in 2001.  This growth in PAYT  reduces solid waste by 17%, as consumers adopt new behaviors to lessen the impact on their wallets. 

Northborough MA has had PAYT since we moved here in 2004. Northborough has been doing this style of pick-up since 2003. My mother is very intense about the PAYT style as she would tell me to not bring food or drinks home from a restaurant as we would be paying for the trash in the end. Also, my mother has different bins for paper, glass, plastic, metals (soda cans have a deposit so must be handled differently and not placed at the curb) and a miscellaneous bin.

Of course me being me I will accidentally throw a can of soda or a bottle of Gatorade into the glass bin (it's a dark room, give me a break) and my mother would get on my case about it.  So in my opinion it may be an annoying thing to do, to pay for the more trash you have, but in the end it is a good idea, as now the level of trash has an incentive to go down.

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