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Editorial: Other municipalities should consider pay-as-you-throw program

Carroll County’s commissioners voted at their weekly meeting to move management of the FuTuRe (Fair Trash Reduction) pay-as-you-throw program from the county level to the town level when the pilot expires in New Windsor on July 1. New Windsor has been participating in the program since November and the results look encouraging, but whether the town will continue with it, whether other municipalities will give it a try or whether it will be scrapped in this area has yet to be determined.

The program requires town residents to use specialized garbage bags to have their waste picked up and recycling is free. New Windsor has seen overall waste generation decrease by 26%, according to the county’s Department of Public Works. That tonnage decrease is the result of a 41% tonnage decrease in solid waste, combined with a 35% increase in the tonnage of material that is recycled. Since implementing the FuTuRe program, annual tonnage has decreased from over 240 tons to about 180 tons. Before the program, the waste stream was 81% curbside trash and 19% curbside recycling. Now that the pilot has been implemented, and residents pay for trash but do not pay for recycling, the stream is 64% curbside trash and 36% curbside recycling.

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We know there are residents who simply don’t like the idea of “pay as you throw,” although we don’t necessarily understand why. The idea of paying for the amount of garbage you produce and have taken away seems a democratic ideal to us. Making every household pay the same amount? That seems to be the opposite of democratic.

There were concerns aired at a town council meeting before the program even began that it didn’t seem like it would be good for large families. It very well may not be. But large families also likely pay more for electricity or water because they use more. That’s the way it works. Should an elderly person living alone be expected to pay the same amount for trash collection as a husband and wife with four kids and multiple pets? Plus, it’s debatable whether any families are actually paying more. The Department of Public Works told the commissioners that households are trending toward saving $58 annually from tip fees and from not needing to purchase regular trash bags.

There has been speculation that some New Windsor residents are taking their trash and dumping it in wooded areas or in dumpsters outside businesses or to Union Bridge or Westminster. First off, this is illegal. Anyone caught dumping trash in the woods or outside a business should be prosecuted. And anyone who drives to a neighboring municipality to throw their trash in with a friend or relative’s trash is probably spending more on gas and time wasted than by just sticking to the program.

Processing less waste can be cheaper for jurisdictions. In New Windsor, for example, the tipping fee the town pays at the county landfill is eliminated and replaced with the bag fee, meaning town funds can be reallocated to other areas — or local taxes can be lowered. Material not sent to landfills can, alternatively, be recycled, composted or incinerated to generate electricity. And if less is sent to the county landfill, obviously, the landfill doesn’t fill up as quickly.

Commissioner Dennis Frazier, R-District 3, said he’d want to take the results and numbers from the New Windsor pilot to the municipalities in Carroll to see if they’re interested.

We hope the other municipalities take a serious look. If this program can save municipalities money without passing much (or any) cost on to the consumer, if it can lengthen the life of the county landfill, if it helps the environment and, oh yeah, if it is the more fair way to handle trash disposal, it sounds good to us.

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