Pay-as-You-Throw, and Don’t Look Back

It’s Town Meeting Season in New England, when people fill up high school gyms and libraries to vote on things like town budgets, school funding, road repairs… and, sometimes, pay-as-you-throw.

Image courtesy of Town of Hopkinton Facebook page

Image courtesy of Town of Hopkinton Facebook page

Most years, people in at least a few towns in the region find a way to get PAYT on the ballot. That’s what happened in Hopkinton, N.H., over the weekend. In the midst of approving a $6.12 million operating budget and some road repairs, the assembled citizens also voted on a “petition warrant article” to rescind the town’s five-year-old PAYT program. Hopkinton’s Town Meeting has had this vote every year since this program began, and they’ve voted it down every single time. This year, not only did residents vote to keep pay-as-you-throw, but they also did so by the largest margin yet: 169-77, more than a two-to-one margin.

It’s not just Hopkinton; we see this again and again. Just last year, the people of Tilton, N.H., and Wellfleet, Mass. did exactly the same thing, voting by large majorities to keep their PAYT programs operating. When people in pay-as-you-throw communities have the chance to either continue or reject their programs, they consistently vote to keep them.

Image courtesy of Flickr via Creative Commons license

Image courtesy of Flickr via Creative Commons license

As we’ve said before, a big part of why PAYT works is because it is popular, easy, and fair. That’s something that isn’t necessarily easy for everybody to see before a program starts, but once it’s part of people’s everyday life, they understand that PAYT offers them lots of benefits, with virtually no drawbacks. What’s more, once they see that paying for the true cost of their trash brings benefits without breaking the bank, they’re never going to go back to the wasteful, unfair, and destructive status quo that their old flat-fee system stood for.

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