A Parliament of Owls: Pay As You Throw Coming

Photo by Possessed Photography on Unsplash

Did you know a group of owls is called a “parliament”? In the case of the Weston Owl, a Parliament is a guest post on this page. The following has been guest-written by town resident Ann Wiedie.

Starting on October 1, the Weston Transfer Station will implement the new Pay As You Throw (PAYT) system, replacing fixed price stickers. This change was voted at the April 13 Select Board meeting, and an implementation working group has been arranging the details over the summer.

As part of the change, all Weston residents will have access to the Transfer Station with no-cost admittance stickers. One sticker will be mailed to each household which currently has a Transfer Station sticker, and a second sticker may be obtained from the Town Hall. Residents who are not current Transfer Station sticker holders may obtain stickers from Town Hall by contacting the treasurer/collector at collector@westonma.gov or by stopping by Town Hall.

Once at the Transfer Station, recycling (unless of a bulky item) will be free. Residents will dispose of solid waste in special Weston PAYT bags in 15- and 30-gallon sizes at costs of $2 and $4 each, respectively. The bags will be sold in packages of 10 at local retailers starting the week of Sept. 20. Brothers in Weston, Roche Bros in Wellesley, Donelan’s and Stop & Shop in Wayland, and Market Basket in Waltham have confirmed that they will sell the bags. Bulky items will be charged a fee according to the schedule which has been in place since May 1.

The same or similar changes have been made by 44% of towns in Massachusetts, and those towns have seen, on average, a 34% reduction in solid waste. PAYT benefits the environment by reducing the amount of solid waste sent to the incinerator in Millbury. Less solid waste burned benefits us all as the incineration produces toxic air pollution. Some contaminants are captured in the ash, then buried and will, despite best practices, eventually leach out. These contaminants are linked to cancer.

PAYT is successful in reducing solid waste by creating a financial incentive for residents to divert waste from the incinerator. Transfer Station users have long been in the practice of recycling their plastic, paper, glass, and metal, as well as yard waste and wood scraps, and making charitable donations of clothing and housewares. Newer possibilities for diverting waste include electronics and textile recycling, as well as composting of food waste. Estimates are that about one-third (by weight) of the solid waste produced by a home is in the form of food scraps.

Finding new owners for items is good for the environment, and also benefits those new owners. Residents are encouraged to donate useful items to thrift shops, or make use of online platforms like Freecycle, Craigslist (free items can also be listed there), or other social media. The Swap Shed at the Transfer Station re-opened last Saturday with volunteer attendants to keep the shed efficient. To be involved, please visit WestonMA.gov/1680/Swap-Shed-Attendants

PAYT is fairer to residents than a one-price-per-household sticker fee. Using the new system, households that throw very little away will no longer be subsidizing those that throw a large amount away. Smaller households, and those who take steps to minimize their trash output, will save money under PAYT.

A comparison of cost under the new PAYT system versus the previous fixed-price sticker system indicates that the average household with moderate diversion to compost or recycling should not pay any more under PAYT. The PAYT Working Group estimated that under PAYT the average non-senior household will throw away the equivalent of about 66 large bags per year. If that household can limit their waste to 64 or fewer large bags per year, or 128 small bags, then the household will reap a cost savings under the new system. Senior citizens, who have enjoyed discounted Transfer Station stickers in the past, should not find that their costs increase under PAYT since their trash amounts tend to be low. Even under PAYT, the Transfer Station will continue to be a bargain, costing about one-third as much as a private hauler. With the no-cost stickers, all Weston residents can take advantage of this program.

Leave a Reply