Trash idea trashed

Carrie Crespo
Staff Writer

There is too much trash in Carrboro and no place to put it. One option to option to lesson the amount of trash, called “Pay-As-You-Throw,” was not met with positive reviews. The Carrboro Board of Alderman and citizens sounded hesitant to this idea.

Fees already are charged for picking up large items, extra yard waste and for commercial items. Property taxes are the only funding for door-to-door pickup.

Through PAYT, residents either would pay by a specific volume using varying sized carts- 30-gallon, 60-gallon or 95-gallon – or pay by the bag using a sticker method.

The Town of Carrboro collects about 8,000 tons of trash per year and Orange County collects 85,000 tons. George Seiz, director of Public Works, reported that the residential refuse was 34 percent of Carrboro’s total amount of trash.

PAYT, which is used successfully in Eden, N.C., was proposed as a way to get Carrboro citizens living in single-family residences to recycle more and produce less trash. Besides the overall positive effect supporters say that would have on the environment, the plan is expected to lower tipping costs.

“Hundreds of communities across the country are successfully using Pay-As-You-Throw – all sizes, all kinds and many different variations of systems,” Alderman Dan Coleman said. “They are pretty much universally experiencing waste reduction and cost savings.”

According to Orange County Solid Waste, the use of PAYT would reduce the amount of trash by 150 to 225 tons a year. Seize said it also would reduce the tipping fees by $6,900 and $10,350.

But the plan doesn’t come without additional expenses. It would cost $77,450 to $80,900 per year to pay for carts and implementation if fees are determined by volume. It would cost $8,650 to $12,100 per year to use stickers.

The staff report presented other implications of the plan. Those included how difficult it would be to implement and enforce the plan, its impact on the budget and what people would do with the trash if they don’t want to pay or couldn’t afford it.

John Herrera called the plan Leave-As-You-Throw. He said the negative effects the plan would have on low-income households would force people to leave Carrboro. Instead of a punishing system, Herrara said, he wants to see a rewarding system.

“Lower income people will be hit the hardest,” Herrera said after the meeting. “To me, the key is education. We should see how we can promote conservation, not just in garbage but in all fields.”

Alderman Joal Hall Broun said the problem isn’t just people having too much trash but rather that manufacturers are putting products in much more packaging than they need.

Hall Broun isn’t keen on the plan because she said that fire, police and garbage should be basic services that people shouldn’t have to pay for.

Devin Clark, a citizen of Carrboro, agrees.

“I consider garbage and waste management as basic services and has been and should be paid for with our property taxes,” Clark said. “I dislike the idea of being punished with a fee of any size when I’m trying to my part. Why do we need a fee to pay for something we already pay for? A fee is just another tax and I think we have high enough taxes as it is.”

Carrboro citizen Robert Kirshner, feels he shouldn’t have to pay an additional fee because as a resident of a multi-family residence, he doesn’t get the service of door-to-door garbage pick-up that his taxes pay for. All of his trash goes into his complex’s dumpster.

Kirshner is concerned other people will start putting their trash in his complex’s dumpsters.

“Not only would we have to regulate our own residents but now we have to do more enforcement against people coming in and dumping,” he said.

After the meeting, Kirshner listed three ideas for what could be done, including to educate and show how much people are actually paying for garbage pickup and going after manufacturers to use less packaging. He also came up with a plan of “pay as you buy” in which people pay an environmental surcharge on items.

Coleman wants people to stop looking at the plan as having only negative monetary effects, but instead to look at the overall positive environmental effects if people recycle more.

The board accepted the staff report but decided to debate the issue further before making a decision.

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