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Editorial: Pay-as-you-throw hits garbage heap, idea could still be recycled

New Windsor is dumping its pay-as-you-throw waste removal program, but that doesn’t mean the idea can’t be recycled at a later date in New Windsor and, potentially, throughout Carroll County.

During its Monday meeting, the New Windsor Town Council opted against continuing the FuTuRe (Fair Trash Reduction) program, a pilot that began in November and ends next week. The program wasn’t a failure, however. In fact, based on the significant decrease in waste, it was a success. And based on the comments by Mayor Neal Roop and some of the council members, it’s a little surprising they decided not to continue it, although it’s been obvious from the start some residents were vehemently against it.

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“At first I wasn’t a big advocate of it but the more we got into it, I became an advocate for it,” Roop said at the meeting. “This was an opportunity for the town to try and lower expenses. Which is what everybody wants and I really think this could’ve saved the town, going forward, possibly enough to lower taxes two or three cents.”

The Board of County Commissioners in April voted to move management of the program from the county level to the town level. More than one council member said that lack of countywide implementation was a reason to discontinue the program. The main reason, though, was likely angry residents. Councilman Ed Smith — who was not a proponent of the program but did acknowledge he now thinks it has potential — said Monday that some people “simply did not want to do this and they would do everything in their power to make sure it didn’t work.”

Indeed. Many didn’t like having the program, from their perspective, forced on them. They didn’t like having to purchase special, more expensive trash bags (although focusing on recycling more and throwing away less as well as potential tax cuts would at least have somewhat mitigated that). And they didn’t like the fact that suddenly some of them were paying more for trash removal than their neighbors. No question, a family of six is likely to produce a lot more garbage than a retired couple. Of course, one of the key points of pay-as-you-throw is to make it a more fair system. Just as customers pay for how much water or electricity they use, it makes sense they would pay for how much trash they throw away rather than a universal, predetermined amount.

Kristen Brown, a consultant with WasteZero, which administered the program, told us New Windsor’s recycling rate essentially doubled, from 19% to 38%, and that trash generation is down by 43.5% — which would mean 43.5% lower tip fees paid by the town at the landfill. The fees at Northern Landfill are currently $64 per ton. There’s no fee for recycling.

Councilwoman Kimberlee Schultz said during her campaign for reelection that trash removal accounts for, by far, the town’s largest bill at about $90,000 per year with roughly half of that going toward garbage trucks and the rest to the county for the tipping fee. Roop had earlier estimated implementing the program could save the town some $14,000 per year, but if the aforementioned numbers were correct and remained consistent over the course of an entire year, the savings could be closer to $20,000.

Pay-as-you-throw would’ve saved New Windsor money. It would’ve saved space in the landfill. It would’ve democratized waste removal. Commissioner Eric Bouchat, R-District 4, told us the commissioners plan to analyze the numbers to evaluate if it could work countywide. But if pay-as-you-throw is, indeed, being tossed out, Carroll countians should still heed the advice of New Windsor Councilman Edwin Palsgrove: “I would encourage all residents to continue to recycle or repurpose as much as possible, as this is beneficial towards the ultimate goal of conserving landfill space, minimizing the tipping fee expense, and hopefully leaves planet Earth a better place for our children and grandchildren.”

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