Todd Koep, a Municipal Systems Coordinator with the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), gave a presentation on Monday, Oct. 24 to Plympton residents on Pay as You Throw or PayT. He said that Plympton averages 1,926 lbs. of trash per household per year whereas the average across the State was 1,066. “[The] current system is a flat fee so if you dispose of 1 bag a week, you pay the same as someone that disposes of 10 bags per week,” Koep told the audience.
Koep said that PAYT is unit based just as other utilities like electricity where you pay for what you use. He called the program “a waste reduction strategy” saying it helps with recycling and reusing since it forces people to take a harder look at the trash they generate.
He said that residents would be given either a 15- or 33-gallon bag of trash. There would be a fixed cost for the operation of the transfer station. “To cover those costs, you have an annual fee… what we’ve kind of come to the conclusion is a $45 fee for seniors and a $65 fee for otherresidents,” Koep said. The larger bag would cost $2.50 while the smaller bag would cost $1.50. “The bags are set to break at a certain weight and that’s because the bags are priced by weight,” he further explained. The bags would be sold at local retailers frequented by residents including Stop and Shop, Walmart, and local gas stations. He said the only caveat would be if you were to remember needing the trash bags after regular operating hours for those establishments.
Koep likened the smaller bag to the size of a typical kitchen trash bag. “I have 3 adults, a 9-year-old and a dog in my household and I go through one small bag every 2-3 weeks and I’m not the world’s best recycler,” he explained. The larger bag was labeled as being “half the size of a contractor bag.”
“There are a lot of benefits to going Pay as You Throw,” Koep said. Waste reduction including increased recycling, donating, and backyard composting was listed as a major benefit. Leveling the playing field was another huge benefit explained by Koep.
Some of the perceived challenges Koep named were public perception that the fee is a tax, adverse effects on low-income households, increases in illegal dumping, and higher administrative costs. He said that the fee is not actually a tax and noted that sticker fees would be increasing regardless of whether the program was adopted. He also said that waivers for low-income households, veterans, and seniors would be available. Regarding illegal dumping, Koep said that studies have not shown the program to increase illegal dumping. Finally, he said that higher administrative costs are offset through the savings from reduced disposal.
KOEP said another acronym that residents might see is SMART or Save Money and Reduce Trash. “Residents reduce their waste, the town pays less for disposal, and the State generates less trash,” Koep said. He further said that the State goal is 30 percent waste reduction by 2030.
Following his presentation, Koep opened things up for questions. Selectman John Traynor asked for clarification regarding the dollar amount per ton of trash. Koep said it was around $104 per ton of trash. He said the dollar amount for PET plastic is $185 per ton. Koep said there is always going to be a rate for contamination in glass and plastic bottles, usually around 10 percent. He said that the rebate averages out to about $27 per ton.
Traynor said that PAYT was economically advantageous, fairer, and environmentally conscious. He noted that the hard work would be making sure the general public was well-informed on the benefits and that any misconceptions were corrected. “All you’re doing is switching the color of the bag, yeah, it’s going to be a little bit more, but you’re going to be saving overall,” Koep said.
“If there’s feedback out there that we haven’t heard, I’d really like to hear it, before we vote it,” Traynor said. Asked his opinion on the program, Selectman Mark Russo said it wasn’t the right forum for him to discuss his thoughts. He said that the issue would be on the agenda at the November 7 Selectmen’s meeting and that a vote was possible at that time. Russo urged residents to get educated on the issue prior to that meeting. Selectman Christine Joy seconded Russo’s thoughts.
Someone asked about waste oil deposit since Plympton used to have it but no longer does. The high cost was cited as the reason for stopping the program.