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Pay as you throw may be better solution to Cleveland's trash problem

Marc Lefkowitz  |  11/25/09 @ 12:13pm

Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson is making a brave acknowledgement with his proposal that residents pay the true cost of trash. The Mayor is taking fire for proposing to balance the 2010 budget by charging a $9.25 monthly fee per household for trash collection. Although poorer residents will be affected, charging fees for trash may have an unintended environmental benefit if people think about how much trash costs.

Is or isn't a fee the answer? Will residents demand that the city come up with a better way to pay for it? The answer may be in a new idea called "pay as you throw" ? where residents are charged on a sliding scale for how much trash they put out. Unit pricing is working in literally thousands of communities, and could be a nice alternative to Cleveland's proposed flat fee.

A flat fee may be a merry-go-round to more and more fees-and it doesn't create an incentive produce less trash-where a "pay as you throw" strategy has dramatically increased recycling in 4,000 communities that have it, according to EcoCycle, which introduced it in Boulder, CO.

If Cleveland wants to get serious about reducing its solid waste, it should consider all of the alternatives available.

For more information, see Massachusetts Pay as you throw case studies.

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