In most cities the cost of garbage collection and landfills is covered by property taxes. Neenah, Wisconsin is trying a new approach to funding garbage collection, and by doing so they’re hoping to reduce the amount of garbage collected.
The proposed plan would do away with traditional dumpsters, residents would buy bags for their garbage, at $2.40 a bag, garbage collectors will only pick up the official city bags each week. The logic behind this trash reduction plan is that people will want to save money by buying fewer bags, which would encourage less trash disposal and reduce landfill/collection costs. Like tollways for drivers, paying by the bag puts the expense more directly on people using garbage collection and landfill space. It’s sort of like “pay as you go,” but “pay as you throw.” It equitably spreads the cost around to everyone living in Neenah, not just property owners. Right now, the owner of a $150,000 home pays about $130 a year for garbage removal. If that person throws out one bag a week, it would cost about $125. Two bags would cost $250 yearly.
Enviro Girl likes this plan because it directly taxes consumption as opposed to property taxes that have no bearing on how much garbage a household generates. Enviro Girl demonstrated last week how her family throws away about 1 tall kitchen garbage bag per week, yet they live on 60 acres. Is it fair for her to contribute more to garbage collection/landfill taxes than people living on a city lot throwing away three times as much garbage each week?
Fees make people aware of their behavior–just as with shopping bags (when charged for shopping bags, people will use fewer bags than if they’re offered a rebate for bringing their own bag). She also likes the fact that this plan assesses the cost of garbage more directly to people using collection services. Want to save money? Throw away less stuff. The incentives are inherent in the proposed plan.
Yet Enviro Girl lives in the country and every year she finds trash that people dump on her property because they don’t want to pay to dispose of their old tires or electronics properly. There is a legitimate fear that people will dump their trash on other people’s property just to save money.
Enviro Girl will be curious to see if this innovative plan will become the rule in Neenah. Meanwhile, she applauds their creativity in addressing the problem of too much garbage consuming too many of our resources.
Tell the Eco Women: What do you think of the Neenah Plan to Pay As You Throw? Can it work? Or will people cling to their trashy habits and reject the idea?