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Northern Landfill could get credit card readers, 'Pay As You Throw' approach under proposals

Northern Landfill could get credit card readers, 'Pay As You Throw' approach under proposals
A garbage truck pulls into the Carroll County Northern Landfill along Md. 140 in Westminster Wednesday. (DYLAN SLAGLE/STAFF PHOTO , Carroll County Times)

The Carroll County commissioners will address two topics related to solid waste at their biweekly meeting Thursday: bringing credit card readers to the county landfill and finding incentives to reduce the financial and environmental costs of trash.

County staff are recommending that the commissioners approve the purchase of equipment to allow people disposing of items at Northern Landfill to pay by credit, according to the commissioners' agenda.

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If the commissioners approve it, there will be a minimal cost to implement it, said Dusty Hilbert, chief of the Bureau of Solid Waste. The main cost concern is that most credit card companies charge a transaction fee of about 3 percent. The commissioners will discuss whether those who use credit will have to pay for the transaction fee or if it's something the county will absorb, Hilbert said in an email.

Bringing credit card equipment to the landfill has been discussed before, Hilbert said, but no decision had been made because of potential fees and the financial commitment.

"Credit and debit is a norm in conducting business;" he said in the email. "How we handle the additional costs is for open discussion."

The commissioners are also expected to take up the issue of Pay As You Throw, an incentive to help keep costs down while encouraging greener practices.

Under the Pay As You Throw idea, residents would pay for what they throw away in the trash but not for what they recycle, Hilbert said in the email.

"Diverting materials from disposal is the main goal. That conserves space in the landfill and saves costs associated with landfilling or transferring waste out of state," Hilbert said in the email.

If Pay As You Throw is implemented, costs could be reduced from about $56 per ton to $25 or $15 per ton, Hilbert said in the email, adding that the discussion Thursday is just about the method and not the specifics.

One of the concerns that would have to be discussed is subscription-based trash removal, said Bruce Holstein, member of the Solid Waste Advisory Council.

The benefits of Pay As You Throw might not come back to the residents who use subscription-based trash removal services and thus don't drop off the trash themselves, Holstein said. But he predicts that if the companies that haul the trash enjoy savings, they might compete for customers by lowering their prices.

Pay As You Throw has been in plans for the past 10 years, and multiple studies have recommended it, Holstein said. He is in favor of it, adding that it could take some time for people to get used to it.

"It'll be a change, and people don't like change. So you'll get pushback from some people," he said.

The benefits of Pay As You Throw are both financial and environmental, said Don West, chair of the Solid Waste Advisory Council.

"It benefits the citizen because it's a different way of paying for your trash disposal," West said.

There is still more to discuss before Pay As You Throw could be implemented, Hilbert said in the email.

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"Vetting the model needs to be done by all stakeholders: customers, haulers, towns, SWAC and staff," he said in the email. "It is a proven tool to minimize waste disposal and fairly distribute disposal costs to those who use it. How best it could be used in Carroll is the discussion we need to have. Years of planning and implementation would be needed to work out all the details in order to implement a PAYT system."

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