April 17, 2014

Pay as You Throw. Bipartisan Group Hug?

Mayor Richard Berry handed me a post today.  While skimming the newspaper headlines at the coffee shop this morning, I see the mayor wants Albuquerque to move to a "Pay as you Throw" system.  I actually think the EPA came up with that clever title.  

Currently, we all pay the same for trash pickup.  You got a week's worth of smelly diapers, 15 Amazon boxes and some ham hock leftovers?  That'll be $8.18 a month.  You're a No-poo freegan that composts all her leftovers and knits her clothes from sweaters found on her dumpster dives?  Sorry Willow, that's still $8.18 just for having an 87 zip code.

But if the Mayor gets his wish, we'll pay the same for a new, smaller trash bin.  Or you can pay $4.50 more a month to keep your larger bin and toss 96 gallons of what ever non-toxic (diapers permitted) hard and soft matter you don't want on your property anymore.

The proposal includes a new transfer station in town to reduce the amount of travel time emptying trash trucks.  Ostensibly if they are collecting less trash they'd be making less trips too.  But less trash should mean more recycling so that travel time should increase.  Plus the city needs to make the initial investment in the smaller, 48 gallon carts.  Accounting costs should rise too now that we need to keep track of who uses what bin.  I feel new 'admin costs' comin'.

” This creates a direct economic incentive to recycle more and to generate less waste,” from the Albuquerque Journal today.  It also creates a direct economic incentive to throw trash in the recycle bins, non?  Or perfect something called the "Seattle Stomp" - smashing down your trash so you can fit more inside.  

Psychologically though, Albuquerque seems to be doing it backward.  We should have started with smaller bins in the first place.  Then having to spend the extra money AND effort for larger cans might have kept a few couch-bound.  But now we're all used to the 96 gallon behemoths and it doesn't sound like a big deal to pay a few dollars more to keep it.

What might help is a city composting campaign like that in Boulder and other awesome but cost-prohibitive hippie towns.  Albuquerque certainly has the real estate for a giant pile of rotting matter.  If San Francisco and Seattle can find a place to dump hundred of thousands of tons of veggie peels, then the Duke City can certainly figure it out.  

The hubs and I talked about it this morning and we like the idea.  I do the trash every week and our bin is never full.  I'm not saying I won't Seattle Stomp my new bin after a birthday party, but I'm willing to give it try.  And I can think of another benefit - my four-year-old can more easily drag a 48 gallon cart to the curb over our current 96er.  One less chore for Mommy.

It's not all a happy love-fest for Mother Earth of course.  Mayor Berry is a Republican after all.  But that's what makes it a unique subject.  Lefties love it because it's earth-friendly.  Middies (or we'll just say Libertarians) like it because it promotes personal responsibility.  And Righties like it because it brings in more revenue - both from the hold outs that don't want a smaller bin AND the recycling revenue it gets when more people use the blue or green bin versus the black.  Can we all just move in for a big hug?


  1. Interesting. We have a problem at our home: We have a huge trash can but rarely fill it, but when we do, boy oh boy do we fill it.

    Anyway, our recycle bin is sh!t. It's tiny. We routinely fill it the day after it's picked up (once per week). Then we start filling white kitchen trash bags if we are out of Whole Paycheck paper bags. Every Friday, there's the Tyson family's recycling, all three white kitchen bags full, WP paper bags x 2 and one lowly low-to-the-ground teeny tiny plastic bin. I asked for a bigger one, and the city said no.

    Now on to Albuquerque: Is there a plan for those with the smaller cans who occassionally put too much out? Fines? Raise that month's fee?

    1. I don't regularly see people leave out extra trash because we have a funny fee system. Currently it's almost $60 for pick up of trash that doesn't fit and only $5 a month for an extra bin. If you leave trash out on the curb, outside the big, it'll still be there when you get home from work. While I don't have further info on the proposal at this point I'll assume a similar fee structure.

      Because the difference between bins is nominal and because it requires effort to get the smaller can, I predict only the eco-conscious will take the time to make the switch. They type that will pride themselves on limiting trash to their one bin.

      Recycling has increased since they gave us the 96 gallon green bins. I can't imagine going back to the small crates we had in Fl.

  2. $8.18 a month?? Wow. Just north of San Francisco we pay nearly $33/mo for a 35 gallon can. I just called to switch to a 20 gallon can, but don't know how much that'll save me since I couldn't find rates posted anywhere. But we are lucky and can put compost (including waxed papers and pizza boxes) into our green can, so I can't complain too much. (No milk cartons sadly, but I can wash those and take them to work where they are. :-)

    1. Pizza boxes??!! How..awesome...is that. Guilt-free pie! But then perhaps the $33/month trash bill (does that include sewage?) might eat into the dining out budget a bit. Thanks for giving me the comparisons. I've always wondered how the Bay Area can manage to collect compost and I'm guessing it's coming at the expense of potential property tax. (and good on you for taking the extra step on the milk cartons ;-)