“It pays to be green”: Sustainable Belmont supports Pay as You Throw to reduce trash, pollution, and carbon emissions
This year, Sustainable Belmont is campaigning to reduce trash and increase recycling, lowering Belmont’s carbon emissions and saving money for the Town. This campaign supports implementing a Pay-As-You-Throw (PAYT) bag option when the Town selects its new trash contract in 2018. This option could reduce Belmont’s trash by 25%, which lowers the town’s carbon footprint as if all homes saved 4.5% of their energy use.
Why PAYT? Our trash carries significant risks. It contributes to global warming, has harmed communities in Massachusetts (MA) and disposal options are getting fewer and more expensive. (Only 11% of MA communities have unlimited trash paid entirely with property taxes, like Belmont.) Fortunately, like 147 other MA communities, Belmont can try Pay As You Throw (PAYT) bags to help mitigate these risks. This is where households buy and use special bags sold at local retailers that cost more than ordinary garbage bags. Communities have found this provides a kind of “trash meter” that helps reduce waste significantly.
PAYT bag programs have been shown to:
- Cut waste
- Increase recycling
- Reduce trash disposal costs
- Protect the environment
Provide residents greater control over disposal costs
We recommend returning all bag fees to households, so it will cost the average taxpayer nothing.
How can I help with the campaign?
Attend a public meeting at Town Hall on Sept. 25, 6:00pm, and express your support for PAYT to reduce carbon emissions and save money. If you can’t attend, please consider calling (617. 993.2610) or writing to the Board of Selectmen to let them know that you support environmentally beneficial trash programs such as PAYT bags and that they should consider the environmental benefits of a PAYT bag program in the upcoming trash contract.
Email us to let us know if you can contribute to the campaign. We need volunteers to talk to friends and neighbors, create flyers, and attend Town events.
More information on PAYT:
Of all PAYT programs, bag-based programs are usually the most effective because they can work with all types of trash collection programs (including opt-out for seniors and low income residents or those with disabilities), require minimal initial investment, and encourage recycling and waste reduction. In addition, most PAYT programs report high approval rates.
In Massachusetts, there are numerous examples of successful programs using PAYT bags, including the example of Ashland, MA (a town with demographics not unlike that of Belmont). Brookline, Chicopee and Norwell have become PAYT communities in the past year.
Benefits of bag-based PAYT:
- Little change is needed with PAYT bags, since most residents already bag their trash and patronize local retailers where they could buy bags. Administration of bag sales could be managed by a third party vendor without adding staff.
- No expensive up-front costs to pay for heavy duty barrels and special collection equipment.
- Over $200,000 available in state grants to Belmont for adopting PAYT bags.
- No hassle to store or manage large barrels–residents use their own.
- Bags come in different sizes–no need to save up to use a large bag if not needed.
- Illegal dumping is rare with PAYT towns–early education and enforcement helps.
- Polling data from MA towns with PAYT shows that only about 20% of resident’s dislike PAYT. Most appreciate the environmental and financial benefits and are likely to vote for a candidate that supported PAYT.
- Don’t need long 10-year contracts to pay off barrels and automated equipment.
- MA passed the Global Warming Solutions Act (GWSA) in 2008, which called for a 30% reduction in trash by 2020. Belmont’s just half way there.
- PAYT bags has the biggest reduction of trash of all the options (25% confirmed by two independent sources, MA DEP and a consulting firm specializing in municipal waste).
- 25% less trash means 4000 metric tons reduction of CO2 equivalent (equal to 4.5% of Belmont’s home energy use). This represents a significant step in achieving Belmont’s Climate Action Plan.
- Globally, we’ve lost 50% of the Arctic’s sea ice in the past 30 years. This affects our weather and brings us closer to a dangerous tipping point, since polar ice reflects heat back into space rather than absorbing it in dark water.
- Automation of trash collection that doesn’t result in significant reductions in waste is environmentally harmful. This is the case with 64 gal. barrels. (A Belmont household throws out an average 26 gal. weekly.) It takes longer for trash to get collected and increases truck emissions (can only do one side of the street at a time), and the manufacture of 10,000 heavy duty plastic trash barrels for each Belmont household adds more emissions and waste.
- Automated collection with 35 gal. barrels is estimated to have 10% trash reduction, but it is still short of the target set with the GWSA.
- Recycling hasn’t increased since the last contract was signed in 2011 (22%), in spite of more education and expanded collection efforts at DPW. This suggests that education efforts alone may not boost recycling significantly. (Arlington is 30%, Cambridge 39%)
- Trash disposal options are getting fewer and farther away–just 7 landfills in MA and the newest incinerator is 29 years old. This puts upward pressure on disposal fees, making trash reduction an important financial strategy for Belmont’s future.
- With the US pulling out of the Paris Climate Accords, and the EPA eviscerated, it falls to states and towns to take action to protect the environment. In May, Belmont’s Town Meeting voted 62% in favor of moving past the 1990 override for trash, to clear the way for local action on PAYT.