LETTER: Why I Did a 180° on Pay As You Throw

Letter to the editor from Gary Silberberg

I have lived in Greenwich for over 30 years and have been satisfied with the present set-up with how municipal solid waste is handled. As a single person, my “disposal needs” have been minimal, and therefore, over time, I have dispensed with a contracted trash hauler.

I make one or two trips a month to recycle items and much less frequently to bring a 30-gallon Hefty bag filled with garbage. Much of my food scraps wind up on a compost pile. When PAYT was first proposed, I was incensed! “You mean now I will have to purchase special bags to dispose of my garbage, when before it was free!”

Well, the fact is, it was never “free.” The cost of operating Holly Hill and taking Greenwich garbage to a disposal site was being paid by my taxes… my real estate taxes to be precise. So my share of the disposal cost was based upon the value of my home, not by how much garbage I tossed. This is similar to the sewer tax. It is not based upon how many flushes you make, but rather, the assessed value of your home.

And non-profit institutions, like private schools, the hospital, etc. were getting a “free ride” because their properties are tax exempt! They could dispose of enormous amounts of trash without paying a dime.

Under PAYT, yes, I would have to purchase approved garbage bags, but my taxes would be reduced by the amount of the mil rate that currently goes to fund the operations at Holly Hill. As a result, my disposal costs would actually be tied to the amount I was tossing out, not how much my house was worth. (A hidden savings… I already pay for the garbage bags I get at the hardware or grocery store, so the approved bags are only a substitution, not an additional cost.)

But how would PAYT affect the trash haulers and how much you currently pay them? Not at all,with one small exception: Haulers could only dispose of items that were in approved garbage bags. So haulers that pick up trash in other towns could not dispose of that trash in Greenwich because they wouldn’t be in approved bags. This would certainly eliminate the concern of some residents who claim that because Greenwich had no tipping fee these haulers were incentivized to bring their trash here.

Whether you realize it or not, the amount you pay to your hauler is only to transport your disposables to the dump, not the cost to dispose of them. That cost is what is currently paid for by your real estate taxes.

Were the Town to institute a tipping fee, the hauler would have to add the cost of the tipping to his hauling bill. Yes, your real estate taxes would be reduced by the amount that covers the Holly Hill operation, but the tipping cost charged to you would now be determined by the hauler.

It is reasonable to assume that haulers would charge the customers an averaged per household rate consisting of tipping fees and administrative costs. And as tipping fees rise as projected, you would have no control over what is charged

Further, under the proposal I read, individuals such as myself, who don’t use a hauler and instead transport our own disposables to Holly Hill, would be required to pay $75 per year for a facilities access permit. Now that is outrageous. That would be far in excess of the cost of the approved garbage bags that I use in a year.

Were the Town to implement a tipping fee, it would require a reconfiguration of the facility so that trucks could be weighed going in and out so they were charged for the weight of the garbage they disposed. And what about the cost of the employees needed to man the scales, collect fees, and check for facility access permits?

To make those reconfigurations would take both time and money, whereas PAYT could be implemented in October, as originally planned, and with no real capital cost.

Even those who favor a tipping fee should at least be willing to consider trying PAYT on a trial basis, since it could be implemented quickly and inexpensively. Then, at the end of the trial period, if it didn’t seem to be a viable solution, we could always consider a tipping fee or return to the current situation by again tacking it on to the real estate taxes.

So that’s why I have done a 180° and am now in favor of PAYT. Aren’t you?

Gary M. Silberberg