Photo: A sample PAYT bag presented at public discussions sponsored by the Belmont Department of Public Works in June.
To the editor:
The Belmont Board of Selectmen will need to vote soon on issuing a Request for Proposals for the town’s waste contract since the current contract expires in June. It’s really important that the RFP include Pay-As-You-Throw (PAYT) as an option.
We’re facing a future of higher waste disposal costs over the next several years because of capacity limits on incinerators and landfills. The state has set a goal for communities to reduce waste by 30 percent by 2020, which will be challenging. Belmont also has made limited progress against its 2009 Climate Action Plan for reducing greenhouse emissions to which our trash contributes.
We have to consider progress against these goals. Failing to do so contributes to long-term higher costs for the town. Not taking every small and reasonable step we can now also clouds our children’s’ futures and saddles them with higher costs from climate change and environmental degradation.
Because it encourages households to reduce unnecessary waste, PAYT is part of a menu of options Belmont needs to reduce its waste costs. Reducing household waste is something we need to do as part of our efforts to promote fiscal balance. It’s also something we need to do to be responsible stewards of our environment.
With PAYT, households will buy special trash bags for a nominal fee, $1 to $2, so that there is a cost for filling each bag and more of an incentive to recycle. It’s estimated that PAYT could reduce Belmont’s trash by as much as 25 percent, which will reduce our carbon emissions by almost 4,000 metric tons. According to the EPA, that’s the equivalent of not burning 450,000 gallons of gasoline or switching about 142,000 incandescent light bulbs to LED’s.
Dealing with new trash options is sure to be perceived as an inconvenience for some. Let’s not forget, though, that Belmont’s Town Meeting voted to empower our selectmen to consider PAYT as an option for the next waste contract. For it to be an option, it needs to be included in the RFP for the next trash contract. Belmont’s Department of Public Works is considering an option for automated pick up of trash cans that it refers to as a PAYT/SMART option – but it won’t lead to the kind of progress we need that true PAYT will bring.
As Belmont’s selectmen consider the issuance of this RFP, they need to consider not just the immediate cost to the town – something for which PAYT should be a winner. They also need to consider the long-term costs of keeping our community sustainable, costs which economists describe as “externalities,” but ultimately with time need to be faced by everyone. PAYT can help our community reduce costs and ensure our community’s future.
Town Meeting Member Precinct 8