Berwick, ME Considering “Pay to Throw” Trash Program

In their meeting on Jan. 5, the Board in Berwick, ME, listened to an update on a proposed “Pay to Throw” trash program. The update came from the director of community development for WasteZero, Diane Doyle.

WasteZero is a company that makes and distributes the trash bags used in retail outlets and other community locations throughout South Carolina. Doyle pointed out in her update that one-third of Maine’s communities have a pay-as-you-throw program of some kind, and her company runs two-thirds of them.

“Whenever you make people responsible for what they throw away you see a reduction in waste,” Doyle said. “The average reduction for a town is 44%.”

She also gave a recommendation for Berwick, saying she proposed two bag sizes: 30-gallon and 15-gallon. Her company would make them and the town would be able to set the price.

Many companies are trying to cut down on waste, either through reducing trash or increasing recycling. PET packaging, for example, is now up to 100% recycled from other PET materials. However, many of those in Berwick are opposed to this plan, as evidenced by a lengthy letter to the editor from a concerned citizen.

They cited first that, “Municipal solid waste (MSW) disposal under Maine statute is a public service that municipalities are required to provide to residents and businesses for health and safety reasons, similar to police and fire services. National studies demonstrate that the best approach to reducing waste, improving recycling and creating jobs is a comprehensive one, not the one-size-fits-all approach Berwick is considering.”

They proposed that Berwick would be better off investing in educational campaigns on waste, and thinking through a comprehensive plan for both residential and commercial use. The resident also noted that the cost of these programs for the towns that already have them are rarely — if ever — revealed, and the policies are not well thought out.

“Recently, the Public Health Research Institute, a nonprofit Maine research firm, conducted an analysis of the costs of the first year of Waterville’s PAYT program,” the letter read. “Preliminary results showed that the PAYT program cost Waterville $212,000 more in revenue than had they stayed with the existing trash pickup and recycling program – this figure excludes information on what the pity paid WasteZero for running the program, the additional costs of recycling and the cost to citizens from increased use of private trash collection.”

To conclude their letter, the resident asked that the Board be more open to letting the citizens in Berwick have a fair, open discussion on the matter. There has since been no response.

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