Pay As You Throw “Clip Art” from the U.S. EPA Archives, circa 1990s.

December 19, 2023 | Collection, Composting, Policies + Regulations

Model PAYT Ordinance

Top: Pay As You Throw “Clip Art” from the U.S. EPA Archives, circa 1990s.

In November, the NRDC and the Environmental Law Institute released their Model Ordinance Establishing a Pay-As-You-Throw Program for Residential Municipal Solid Waste to assist cities looking to reduce waste generation and ensure more municipal discards are recycled or composted. Pay-As-You-Throw (PAYT) is a municipal solid waste (MSW) collection system in which households are charged in proportion to the amount of trash they generate and dispose of and at a higher rate for trash than for recyclables and compostables, which is in line with payment structures for other utilities such as water and electricity. PAYT is also commonly referred to as Save-As-You-Throw, unit-based pricing, volume-based pricing, variable rate pricing, or Save Money and Reduce Trash (SMART). The PAYT tool is decades-old, but with more programs rolling out to collect residential food waste, the model ordinance is a great refresher to put it back on local governments’ radar.

The model ordinance notes that MSW haulers must “employ a variable rate pricing system designed to incentivize households to generate less trash and to increase materials recycling and organics recycling.” It requires haulers to offer various sizes and numbers of trash containers to households and charge accordingly. Specific container sizes or prices are not dictated in the model, which covers three arrangements: Municipally operated haulers; Contracted private haulers; and Licensed private haulers. The model also calls for the municipal government to provide compliance assistance and set penalty procedures and amounts to equitably support effective implementation of a PAYT program.

Measures to promote equity and prevent undue hardship include:

  • Establishing a process for households to apply for reduced MSW collection prices, waivers of specific collection requirements, or both
  • Translating customer notice materials and outreach efforts into languages other than English when appropriate
  • Adopting “any other measures deemed necessary to ensure that no household in [Municipality] faces undue hardship as a result of implementation of this Ordinance, including but not limited to households with members who are low-income, elderly, or disabled or who speak languages other than English.”

“This model ordinance is designed to help municipalities more readily adopt a local PAYT program by providing specific legal language — based on extensive best practices research — that can be used to establish program components,” explains Darby Hoover with NRDC. “The version of the model ordinance with commentaries includes footnotes that provide background information, including examples from cities around the country, and alternative approaches that can assist municipalities in tailoring provisions to their own circumstances. There is also a clean ‘off the shelf’ version of the model, a slide deck, and a compilation of PAYT resources that lists some of the many existing reports, toolkits, and other documents on the topic.”

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