A market solution to Bangor’s rising trash costs

By C. Nancy Green, Special to the BDN
Posted April 03, 2011, at 6:22 p.m.

In the coming weeks, the Bangor City Council will decide whether Bangor should move to a pay-as-you-throw (PAYT) trash disposal program for all city residents. Under this program, households would pay for trash disposal by the amount of garbage they actually throw away.

City officials are calling PAYT a fair and responsible policy that would encourage Bangor residents to reduce their trash tonnage, thereby lowering the city’s overall trash costs.

We agree.

At our March statewide meeting, the Tea Party Patriots of Maine voted to endorse PAYT and encourage all Maine communities to adopt the program. We believe PAYT minimizes the reach of government and reduces wasteful spending.

Bangor, like most cities in Maine, does not charge its residents directly to pick up and haul garbage. Instead garbage collection and pickup is part of the city’s general budget and therefore is paid by property owners based on their property taxes.

It’s an unfair system. I have no reason not to throw out large amounts of garbage every week. I have no reason to recycle. In fact, if I do limit my trash and recycle what I can, I’m actually paying more so that others can do whatever they want.

By assigning a price to each unit of trash, PAYT makes the system fair. If I want to be wasteful, I still can. But now I will have to shoulder the cost of the waste myself. Under PAYT, households have control over their expenses.

In other words, PAYT is a way to allow a capitalist tool – “pricing” – to create market-based incentives for waste reduction and recycling and to allow households the freedom to choose just how much trash service they want to pay for.

PAYT already is working in literally thousands of American cities that have reduced their solid waste tonnage by as much as 50 percent simply because residents became aware of how much it cost to throw away their garbage. There’s no reason to believe we wouldn’t have similar results here in Bangor, to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars in annual cost savings to the city.

PAYT is a market-based cure to the city’s rising trash costs: Assign a price to each bag of trash, and then allow individuals, guided by those prices, to make their own choices.

C. Nancy Green of Bangor is co-chair of the Tea Party Patriots of Maine

http://bangordailynews.com/2011/04/03/opinion/a-market-solution-to-bangor%e2%80%99s-rising-trash-costs/ printed on October 21, 2014