Op-Ed By Fred Camillo, Greenwich First Selectman
Developing the FY 2020-2021 budget presented many challenges for our Town, including significant increases in waste removal and recycling costs.
Historically, the Town earned revenue on recycling materials. Then in recent years, recycled materials were removed at no charge to the Town.
Starting in Fiscal Year 2021, due to changes in the current worldwide recycling market, the Town will have to pay a tipping fee for recycling removal on a per ton basis. If we did nothing, this would be a new annual expense of about $912,000 this year and will increase to nearly $1,200,000 next year.
Raising taxes just to cover this is neither fiscally sound nor sustainable. Therefore, to mitigate the impact to taxpayers, my FY2020-2021 budget includes a Pay As You Throw (PAYT) system for waste management. This would treat waste disposal just like water, electricity, and other utilities. You pay only for what you use – giving residents and businesses more control over their waste costs.
This is a big change for Greenwich, and as with any major change, especially with the advent of social media, there can be quite a bit of misinformation out there. To help dispel some confusion, I have compiled some responses to some of the common myths about Pay As You Throw (PAYT).
Myth 1: I’m paying for something that used to be free.
Fact: This is not a new tax. Trash removal has never been free – waste disposal is very expensive and is currently paid by your taxes. Unlike other utilities, residents and businesses currently have no control over their waste costs and many actually subsidize high-waste producers and people who don’t recycle.
Myth 2: I’m paying twice for the same thing!
Fact: Bag fees are used to offset the taxes needed for waste disposal – reducing the burden on taxpayers. PAYT shifts disposal costs to users and gives residents and businesses more personal control.
Myth 3: This will cause illegal dumping so that people won’t have to buy bags.
Fact: There is no evidence to support this claim. According to CT DEEP, compliance is usually successful within the first six weeks of a new program. Illegal dumping is still illegal and Towns report the same experience with or without PAYT.
Myth 4: There must be a better way to manage waste disposal expenses. We should study this more thoroughly and try other solutions first.
Fact: The State of Connecticut, as well as other states and cities around the country, have worked for decades to find programs that increase recycling and reduce waste. According to CT DEEP and MassDEP, Pay As You Throw is the single, most effective way to reduce trash while also saving money.
Myth 5: This will impact my private hauler – and that will cost me more money.
Fact: Because of the new expense for recycling removal, the Town must do something to prevent a tax increase in excess of 3%. PAYT is the option that has no major impact on private haulers. Trash collection continues as it does now, the only change is the bag that your garbage goes in. Unlike other options, this allows private haulers to continue operations as they do today and allows residents who bring trash direct to Holly Hill to still do so.
This is a great opportunity for Greenwich, not only to produce a budget that makes financial sense for taxpayers, but also further places our Town as a sustainable leader in the country. The time is at hand to make a decision. We can do nothing, which is not an option I am willing to consider. Or, we can implement a policy that makes economical and environmental sense while once again allowing Greenwich to lead.
My office has set up a website with detailed information about Greenwich’s PAYT proposal at www.greenwichct.gov/PAYT. I also would love to hear from residents and businesses, so please do not hesitate to contact me at [email protected] with any comments or questions.