Editorial: Pilot program will give better look at 'FuTuRe' of waste disposal in Carroll County

Our county commissioners continue to take baby steps when it comes to implementing a pay-as-you-throw waste disposal program in the county, on Thursday approving a Fair Trash Reduction (or FuTuRe) pilot program for the Town of New Windsor.

Similar models have been discussed for years as a means to reduce waste and preserve the life of Carroll County’s landfill. It wasn’t until last fall that the commissioners voted to move forward with a public engagement phase of the process that paved the way for a pilot to finally take place.


Here is how it will work for approximately 500 households in New Windsor, starting Oct. 1: Rather than paying a flat rate for trash disposal in annual taxes, residents will instead purchase designated 33-gallon trash bags to cover the cost of disposal. If you generate more trash and, therefore, use more trash bags, you’ll obviously pay more than someone who generates less garbage and uses fewer bags.

The goal is to encourage residents to think more about what they are throwing in the trash, but also to treat garbage disposal more like a metered utility by only paying for what you use.

It wouldn’t be fair, for example, to subsidize your neighbor’s water bill if you’re a 70-year-old living on your own and they are a family of four that washes four times as many clothes and dishes, flushes the toilet four times as often, etc. Why should trash disposal be any different if you generate less garbage than your neighbor?

Dusty Hilbert, the Bureau Chief of Solid Waste for the county's Department of Public Works, had previously told commissioners that residents could see $30 to $40 per year in savings, and the program potentially could translate to 25,000 tons less waste each year if ultimately implemented countywide. That’s important in the effort to extend the useful life of Carroll County’s landfill.

However, a wrinkle that could ultimately hurt a move to a countywide Fair Trash Reduction program is that recycling costs have been volatile lately, and it presently costs the county about $50 per ton of recyclables collected, while it brings in about $9 per ton of trash.

If a pay-as-you-throw program effectively encourages people to recycle more — Carroll currently collects recycling for free — it could force county officials to begin charging fees to collect recycling to balance it all out. Unless, of course, the recycling market fluctuates again and it becomes cheaper to recycle, or maybe even returns to being a revenue generator.

Nevertheless, this is all the more reason that it’s good to move forward with the pilot program. Much of the success or failure of the FuTuRe program will depend on how residents respond to it.

Coming back in nine months and looking at the data as the pilot program reaches its conclusion will hopefully give the next Board of County Commissioners useful information to determine whether this model of trash disposal is indeed the future for Carroll County, or whether the idea itself belongs in the garbage heap.