Those of us who live in Brewer may be tossing out less trash starting in January. That’s when the city’s Pay As You Throw program, or PAYT, kicks in.
Put simply, Brewer residents will join those in 124 other Maine communities who pay by the bag for trash disposal. The bottom line is this: each 15-gallon bag costs $1.25; each 33-gallon bag costs $2; use these or see your trash sit on the curb.
After the first of the year, Pine Tree Waste will no longer pick up your Hefty, Glad, Steel-Sak or any other widely available bag filled with household trash. The haulers will pick up only the bright orange bags, complete with the Brewer city logo printed on them.
The bags will be going on sale shortly at roughly 10 stores in Brewer. Most of them will be larger stores, which generally attract more customers than smaller retailers. However, we’re told some smaller stores are opting to sell the bags for the city and perhaps pick up some new customers in the process.
As you might guess, there has been some pushback against PAYT. There’s apparently a fledgling effort to get rid of the program even before it starts. Time will tell if it gains the support that led to a repeal last month in Sanford. The key opponent in that community led all vote-getters in the recent race for town council, and the town is buying back unused bags.
Pay As You Throw is not a new concept. It’s been tried — and kept — in more than 100 communities. In others it has been proposed and turned down. Per-bag fees range from 50 cents to $3, and program rules vary from town to town.
Those who have studied the practice say PAYT is more apt to help communities pay the tab for disposing of municipal solid waste, the fancy term for household trash. While PAYT prompts short-term drops in “waste to disposal,” experience shows the method is less successful over the long haul as a way to cut trash volumes.
Brewer is combining PAYT with the recently adopted zero sort recycling program. Consumers can put all their recyclables in the same container. The city’s website, www.brewerme.org, has details on zero sort and PAYT.
Ken Locke, the city’s environmental protection director, notes Brewer is the first community in this part of the state to combine the two approaches. Starting in January, recyclables will be collected twice a month instead of the current monthly pickup. Locke says he hopes the combination will cut the volume of trash hauled to the PERC plant by 40 percent during the first full fiscal year it is in operation.
Our tips for Brewer residents:
• Dedicate a trash barrel for recyclables by attaching a free sticker (available at various city departments) bearing the recycle logo.
• On collection day, put recyclables on one side of your driveway, trash on the other.
• Learn about composting as a way to dispose of much kitchen waste (generally, what-ever grew in the ground can be composted).
• Watch The Weekly in this newspaper for a flier from the city detailing PAYT.
• Watch your mail for a letter from Waste Zero, the company that produces the bags; the mailing will include a free bag.
• Since we tend to generate more trash around the holidays, deal with that before Jan. 1.
Since roughly 70 percent of household trash can be recycled or composted, we should all be able to make a dent in our trashy footprints. Another time, we’ll examine excess packaging and products “designed for the dump” as inflators of trash statistics.
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