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Frequently Asked Questions About Pay-As-You Throw

Over the last year, changes in recycling markets have had a dramatic impact on community solid waste programs. As a result, the Durham Town Council adopted a goal to develop a plan to make Durham's solid waste program economically and environmentally sustainable. The Integrated Waste Management Advisor Committee looked for possible solutions, and over the past six months, the committee held a series of public information sessions. One of the possible solutions discussed was unit pricing or pay-as-you-throw. This post answers the frequently asked questions we collected from these public meetings.

1. Why is Durham so concerned with Trash?

  • The Town spends a significant amount of money disposing of recyclable, reusable and compostable material as trash when these items could be much better managed at a lower financial and environmental cost​

  • The financial cost of trash and recycling have grown significantly over the last several years. While we do not know the future of the recycling markets, we do know the trash disposal markets continue to tighten very quickly, which will drive prices well over $100 per ton in the coming years.

2. What are Durham's Options for handling increased solid waste costs?

  • The town can appropriate more money to manage trash and recycling, which will require an increase in the tax rate or it could pay for the increases by reducing spending in other town services.

  • The town could establish unit pricing for trash, which studies have shown would reduce landfill tipping fees and align incentives towards waste reduction. It would provide both environmental and economic benefits.

3. What is pay-as-you-throw (PAYT) and how does it align with Durham Town Council's goals?

  • PAYT is a system where users pay for each unit of trash disposed rather than paying a flat annual fee or having the cost of the service exist within the tax rate. This is similar to electric and water rates. Users pay only for what they use.

  • The Town Council's goals are:

  • Give residents a financial incentive to reduce the amount they throw away, thereby lowering the Town's collection and disposal costs.

  • Generate revenue to help offset some of the cost of the Town's solid waste program.

  • Promote equity in the solid waste costs. Residents pay for the waste they generate.

4. How does PAYT work?

  • Residents buy PAYT bags at stores or at Durham Public Works office. The bags are only used for trash. Bags are not required for recycling.

  • Curbside collection remains the same, but does require PAYT bags. Trash brought to the transfer station also requires PAYT bags..

5. Can Residents still use other trash bags?

  • No, only the special town approved PAYT bags are permitted.

6. What size PAYT bags are available and how much do they cost?

  • Towns usually offer both 33 and 15 gallon bags. The 33 gallon bag fits most standard large trash cans, and the 15 gallon bag fits kitchen size bins

  • The cost of the bags will be determined by the Town Council.

7. Where can I buy PAYT bags?

  • A list of retailers will be posted at the Town of Durham's website. If the program is approved, we would ask local stores to sell bags, and also make them available at the Durham Public Works office.

8. Why will PAYT be good for Durham?

  • PAYT is a tool that can help stabilize Durham's solid waste costs. Studies have shown that it increases recycling rates and reduces the amount of waste sent to landfills.

9. How does PAYT affect large families?

  • The aim of PAYT is to help change behavior. Families can reduce the number of bags they purchase by recycling and composting.

10. Is PAYT fair?

  • In the current solid waste program, the amount residents pay for solid waste disposal is based on the value of their home. PAYT connects the amount you pay directly to the amount of trash you generate.

11. How does PAYT help the environment?

  • PAYT provides an incentive for residents to recycle and compost. That means less trash going to landfills. That helps extend the life span of exiting landfills and reduces the need to build new ones.

12. Why now?

  • We are near the end of our current solid waste contract, and the next contract is going to include a significant cost increase. Changes in the recycling markets have resulted in increased costs. PAYT is an equitable option to pass these cost increases to residents.

13. Will PAYT be easy and convenient?

  • Yes. Residents will be able to buy PAYT bags at local stores where they routinely shop. Procedures for trash and recycling at the curb and transfer station will not change. There is not added fee for recycling.

14. How can residents learn more about recycling?

  • Information will be available at the Town website and included in the Durham Public Works newsletter. Education programs will be offered and will include details on home-composting.

15. Doesn't Durham already do a good job with recycling?

  • Currently, Durham recycles about 28% of its waste. Many PAYT communities typically see a 35% to 45% rate.

16. How will bulky waste and construction debris be affected?

  • There will be not change. Bulky waste passes are sold at the Durham Public Works office.

17. Doesn't PAYT increase illegal dumping?

  • Regional and national studies have shown that the vast majority of communities that start a PAYT program see no increase in illegal dumping. Illegal dumping exists in almost all communities without today, but the majority of dumped material is not residential in origin. It is usually bulky items (e.g. furniture, construction debris) that are not affected by a PAYT system. The Town will prioritize the continued cleanliness of Durham and will pursue any offenders.

18. What can keep my trash bill from rising each year?

  • Better recycling, composting, and reduced trash volumes are key factors that will help manage costs.

19. How will PAYT change recycling at the Transfer Station?

  • There will be no change for recycling, but household waste brought to the Transfer Station will need a PAYT bag

20. How will we know if PAYT is working?

  • We will evaluate the program and issue a report after twelve months.

21. How will the Town administer the program? Will we need to add staff?

  • The Town will not need to added staff. A bag vendor would be hired to manufacture and distribute the bags. That vendor would handle the program administration with existing Town staff providing oversight.

22. How do I pay for my bags?

  • Residents will buy bags at local stores and at the Department of Public Works office.

23. How will the Town enforce the program?

  • The Town's curbside trash collector will only accept Town-approved bags. You can place your bags on the curb or in a barrel of your choosing. All household trash brought to the Transfer Station must be in a Town-approved bags.

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