Pay-As-You-Throw (PAYT), also referred as trash metering, unit pricing, variable rate pricing or user pay, is a collection policy whereby households pay for service on the basis of the volume of waste set out for each collection. PAYT is considered one of the most effective policies for maximizing diversion of single family waste as it communicates a clear message to householders that more waste equals more direct expense. Under PAYT, waste collection operates similar to a household utility charged to the user. That message encourages personal budget responsibility through recycling and other diversion activities which ultimately result in reduced waste going to landfill. One of the limitations of PAYT is the ability of residents to buy their way out of participating in diversion, hence the need to couple PAYT with clear bags, set out limits, ban collection of garbage with recyclables present, etc.
Although PAYT is more costly and complex to administer than a strict bag limit policy, it does provide the opportunity for residents to manage their own volume/cost of waste at the curb. For example, after a large family gathering or house party, a resident will have excess waste to set out. A strict bag limit is annoying to the resident but the flexibility to pay extra to set out a few more bags is seen as much more convenient than being “forced” to make a special trip to a depot. Many communities adopt a policy of 1 bag free, plus up to 2 more paid each week, to provide some curbside flexibility without the need for the resident to obtain an official exemption.
There is no standardized approach to the design and implementation of a PAYT policy. The level of education and promotional needs, fee structure, level of recycling and leaf/yard waste curbside collection services vary among the communities. Always conduct set out studies and understand the needs of your own community prior to adopting new policies.