Former Worcester, MA Public Works Commissioner: PAYT Is Not a Tax

Letter to the editor from Retired Worcester Commissioner of Public Works and Parks, Bob Moylan, Jr, PE. Response to Frank Farricker’s Letter (Feb. 3, 2020) to Greenwich Free Press

In response to Frank Farricker’s letter from February 3 opining that pay-as-you-throw (PAYT) trash reduction programs are a “tax of another color,” I offer the following comments.

The first is to dispel the notion that PAYT is a tax. It is clearly not. A tax is a compulsory financial charge imposed by a government. A failure to pay is punishable by law. Requiring the purchase of special bags to utilize a government service is a user fee and not a tax. This is not wordsmithing but a serious distinction. PAYT is a user fee, akin to a fee for water or sewer services. Similar to how a meter measures water use, a bag of specified volume is used to measure trash. It is patently wrong to mischaracterize a user fee as a tax.

Second, the average household in Greenwich will use 1 bag per week, half of Mr. Farricker’s estimate. I know this because I am very familiar with PAYT programs. In 1993, I implemented the largest PAYT program to date in the northeast, in Worcester, MA. Because of that program, Worcester has consistently ranked in the top 10 communities in MA with the lowest per capita waste disposal.

Worcester’s PAYT program has generated more than $100 million dollars in savings and revenues since it was implemented. It has been used as a model by other cities throughout the northeast including Portland, ME.

The point of PAYT is to give residents more control over their trash bill and to provide an incentive to reduce the amount of trash that gets thrown out. This saves money for the community. There are also other benefits, including reducing greenhouse gases, encouraging recycling, and promoting sustainability.

PAYT programs work! They are recommended by the EPA as the most effective way to reduce household trash. Consider the PAYT proposal. Research what has happened to trash disposal in other communities that have PAYT. Think about what it can accomplish in Greenwich and then support that proposal which you believe is best for your community.

Bob Moylan, Jr, PE
Worcester Commissioner of Public Works and Parks (Ret)