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Should residents be charged a trash collection rate based upon how much they throw away?

Asked at Lawrence Post Office, 645 Vermont St. on February 6, 2010

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Photo of Sara Dennison

“No, because some people have a lot more trash than others.”

Photo of Glenna Myers

“Absolutely, because I am totally into recycling and I’m very upset that people don’t do it.”

Photo of James Ray

“Yeah, because if people have to do a lot more work to clean up, I think that would be fair.”

Photo of Roger Coleman

“No, I don’t think so. Trash is trash.”


leedavid 8 years, 3 months ago

The amount it would cost to set up and maintain such a system....far out weighs any value.

Spacehog: I didn't know the Post Office was still open. You should see the amount of trash on the loading dock there. But you won't see the Feds paying fees. Come on! I throw a lot of whiskey bottles away but I pay city taxes for it. +++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Shouldn't we charge the Post Office for all the trash they deliver as well? LOL! We are paying one government agency to deliver trash and another to pick it up.

sustainabilitysister 8 years, 3 months ago

ABSOLUTELY! This is a no brainer! They should implement the pay per bag program which would encourage people to be more responsible with their consumption as well as give incentives for recycling. With the policy now people don't think about the cost of their waste.

average 8 years, 3 months ago

Logically, clearly yes. Under the current system those who barely throw out anything are subsidizing those who throw out massive amounts. 'Moral hazard' socialism of the worst kind.

Pragmatically, though, there are good reasons not to. The direct monitoring costs aren't free. There are parts of town that don't currently have separated trash pickup (OWL, Mass street businesses). And the indirect monitoring costs... police calls because people are finding other people's trash dumped in rural ditches, yards, and private dumpsters... could add up to make the current system the better choice.

sourpuss 8 years, 3 months ago

Many places already do this. If health care is pay-as-you-use-it, why not trash? How come trash is more "socialized" than health care?

sustainabilitysister 8 years, 3 months ago

Average, I lived in a very conservative, Oklahoma by the sea type of place on the west coast that had this system and people resorted to recycling to help them economically. There was some usage of the burn barrel but more importantly people became conscious consumers and disposers.

Sunny Parker 8 years, 3 months ago

Will there be welfare handouts to pay for trash pickups? Will higher income earners have to pay for lower income (or lazy non-working) contributors of trash?

You can count on it!

GardenMomma 8 years, 3 months ago

I recycle and I have one of those green trash cans with wheels and a lid. We are a family of three and we fill up the trash can with trash in about three weeks. So we have a can of trash to be picked up about once a month.

When we started recycling, we went from two bags of trash a week to one.

Ever wonder how long it takes things to decompose?

* Banana Peel: 3-4 weeks
* Paper Bag: 1 month
* Cardboard: 2 months
* Wool Sock : 1 year
* Tinned Steel Can: 50 years
* Aluminum Can: 200-500 years (But if recycled, it can be reused within 6 weeks!)
* Disposable Diapers: 550 years (biodegradable ones take one year)
* Plastic Bags : 20-1000 years


Or try this one:

George Lippencott 8 years, 3 months ago

Just how do you do this? Do we pay a fortune to weigh the containers? How do we handle large rental complexes? What about family size – should the allowance not be larger for more people? What about businesses?

Just what makes the numerous authors above commenting on recycling believe that many people are not already doing so? What makes them think that such an approach will actually lead to more recycling? Weighing garbage means that a single person can throw almost anything away while a family of six will find it hard to avoid penalties. To do this fairly will lead to a massive administrative nightmare.

labmonkey 8 years, 3 months ago

What happens when other people start throwing trash your yard? This is a bad, bad idea which has good intentions, but will hugely backfire.

Healthcare moocher is right....let a private company take care of it.

Richard Heckler 8 years, 3 months ago

Many communities do pays as you throw. It pays back the community and keeps rates in check. In fact some communities claim a profit = pays for itself. Maybe could reduce our water rates.

Rental tenants should be responsible for getting their mountains of stuff to the landfill not the landlord nor we existing home owners. This stuff fills our trash trucks quickly = more trips to the landfill @ 2-5 miles per gallon.

The city accepting responsibility for this activity supports wasteful lifestyles.

The cost could be centered around 1 city container which holds quite a lot.... more than we use typically.

People who throw more should pay more because they increase the cost of doing business. The landfill is no longer locally owned so we should expect increases on that end to cover the cost of purchase and more profit.

jonas_opines 8 years, 3 months ago

"Healthcare moocher is right….let a private company take care of it."

I'm curious about this philosophy, because it seems rather obvious to me that a private company would not charge a flat rate to all users, but rather probably a flat rate plus extra usage costs, as being discussed here. What's the difference?

Mary Darst 8 years, 3 months ago

I wish we had recycling in our town, from the trash pick up. In Wichita you get two recepticles, one for recycle and the other for garbage. I take my recycle stuff to the small town north, when I go to get my granddaughter. I leave it on their curb. No getting up early on Sat. am to take it somewhere. I'm sure if it was in the trash service, more people would do it.

labmonkey 8 years, 3 months ago


Deffenbaugh seems to be doing alright in the KC area. I am happy with my service, and I do get charged one flat fee.

Boeing 8 years, 3 months ago

I like Sara..."No, because some people have a lot more trash than others". Yeah, that's kinda the point...sounds like you have a lot of trash but want others to pay for its removal?

Where I grew up near Los Angeles, our town had a system where you had to rent a trash bin from the city...there are 4 or 5 different sizes, and depending on that, you would be charged a different amount (obviously the bigger, the more). The garbage crews would not pick up trash from non-sanctioned bins/bags unless it had a trash sticker attached, which you also had to purchase from the city (either at city hall, convenience stores, gas stations, grocery stores). Perfect system that is still in effect today. A suburb of Chicago where some of my family lives has the exact same system and it works great there too.

Tony Kisner 8 years, 3 months ago

If that is the terms of the agreement you come to with a private hauler yes. If the over-reaching local government wants to changes its rates then no.

tangential_reasoners_anonymous 8 years, 3 months ago

Oh. Please, yes. Let me pay to have my trash weighed and/or counted. ( ... replete with neighborhood competition incentives!)

GardenMomma 8 years, 3 months ago

Where are people getting the idea that trash will be weighed?

It would probably be something like Boeing mentions above. You buy a trash container from the city and the only trash that is picked up is the trash contained in the "official" container.

tangential_reasoners_anonymous 8 years, 3 months ago

Oh. Please yes. If fee demarcation is to be based on the capacity of one of those "official" monsters now provided by the city, well, I'm just going to need to up my residential game.

pace 8 years, 3 months ago

Give it a year under real management. Pay as you go works very well. Allow each home owner a base amount, There are a lot of systems doing that. It is a common business practice. If no one at city can figure it out go to the small business industry and look at their practices. Heck ask a retired milk man. Enforce the rules, no special freebies. With Yoos gone, get someone professional. Change the supervisors there, they sit on the porch and wouldn't know if their butts had been superglued to their chairs. Don't throw away the recycling and reduction program. Yoos had been playing with the numbers, doing heavy handed program design and tossing other expenses into that budget for years.
Do a real practices audit. That should be done in all city departments. Tighten up, that means dropping some of the clap on the shoulder comradely that costs the taxpayers extra every day. Don't cut the services to the community without first cutting the services to the existing city crony culture.

BorderRuffian 8 years, 3 months ago

Good ole Larryville! Always thinkin'. Thinkin' 'bout ways to gouge more money from its people. Of course we ought to pay more if we put out more garbage. In fact, why not line the streets with special purpose parking meters that we can tie our trash bags to, then deposit a dollar or so per garbage bag? (Of course, Larryville could double up on the useage of the parking meters during leaf season.) Charge more for durable containers (technical term for trash can). In fact, speaking of leaves, why not devise somesort of genetic marker or ultraviolet system of tagging tree leaves that blow into the streets so they could be traced back to their sources and the responsible land-owners could be fined forlittering the streets. The possibilities are endless.

While we're at it, why not assign a Snow Nazi to each block and have him determine how much snow falls on the sidewalks, and charge each resident according to how many cubic yards falls on the sidewalks that the city owns? The resident would then be responsible to pay the snow bill within 48 hours of the aforesaid snow fall. Of course, after (and ONLY after) paying the bill, the resident would be eligible for reimbursement if he/she provides photographic and other evidenciary proof that the snow was indeed removed, at a duly constituted snow court, such trial to be held each year in the month of July. Photographic proof must be accompanied with adequate, irrefutable evidence that said snow was indeed removed within 47 hours and 59 minutes of the documented snow fall. Biased witnesses such as neighbors, and city employees such as police officer sirs would automatically be declared ineligible as witnesses due to conflicts of interest and other such legal mumbo-jumbo.

Let the prestigious lawfirm of Dewey, Gougem, and Howe represent the city of Larryville in these matters.

yourworstnightmare 8 years, 3 months ago

A flat rate for trash pick up smacks of socialism.

The free market mandates a "pay as you go" trash collection system, instead of the "each to his own abilities" flat rate system.

Let the market guide trash collection prices and let the market regulate people's trash generation.

pace 8 years, 3 months ago

In most cases people own the sidewalk in front their homes and are responsible for maintaining it. Don't give me, through my taxes. the responsibility to shovel yours. I like our trash service but I should not have to shoulder the burden of a free forty ton hand pickup spree for the apartment owners that is usually done on overtime. That is poor service management. We should encourage recycling and reduction, not ask people to pay a higher fee so others don't have to think about or be responsible for how they do it..

yourworstnightmare 8 years, 3 months ago

How about having stations at the exits of every grocery store, with a nazi there tallying up the goods you buy and charging you accordingly?

How about if you have nazis patrolling new car dealer lots forcing you to pay what each car is worth?

How about if you have a nazi come and repair your furnace, and then force you to pay what the service actually costs?

bordermuffin, you are a trifecta.

Ignorant, idiotic, and selfish.

yourworstnightmare 8 years, 3 months ago

Sounds to me like the high trash generators don't want to take responsibility for the cost of their activities and want to pass the cost on to low trash generators and those who recycle.

This is socialism, and it is a shirking of responsibility by high trash generators.

Take responsibility for your own actions instead of expecting a free ride from the government.

tangential_reasoners_anonymous 8 years, 3 months ago


As I'm taking my single, personal trash container to the street, I look to the left and see that the neighboring household with twice as members as mine has twice as much trash. I look to the right, and a neighbor who spent the weekend Spring cleaning, has filled the curbside. Across the street, newlyweds with newborn twins are overflowing their containers.

So... what? I'm supposed to get bent out of shape because I'm somehow "subsidizing" their trash pick-up?

Just how petty do you think I am? (Wait. Put down that hand mirror before answering.)

yourworstnightmare 8 years, 3 months ago

"So… what? I'm supposed to get bent out of shape because I'm somehow “subsidizing” their trash pick-up?"

I am glad you are magnanimous enough to feel ok about subsidizing the behavior of others.

Just where does this magnanimity end? Subsidizing transportation? Subsidizing food and clothing? Subsidizing housing? Subsidizing health care?

Where does it end? Socialism.

tangential_reasoners_anonymous 8 years, 3 months ago

Ah. I can see that, growing up, you must have been taught that "socialism" is a bad word.

Socialism! Socialism! Socialism!

(Sorry, it's just the carpal Tourette's acting up.)

yourworstnightmare 8 years, 3 months ago

"Ah. I can see that, growing up, you must have been taught that “socialism” is a bad word."

Good argument! (rolls eyes).

I can see that you have no rational argument to refute my position. Not even a tangential one.

tangential_reasoners_anonymous 8 years, 3 months ago

Oh, say, can you see?

Who has the time or inclination to refute "arguments" mired in and circumscribed by (outdated) semantics?

Here's a nutshell. Socialism (even communism) is a meaningful approach to managing life's demands and meeting needs. The success of such strategies depends on the caliber of participants. Capitalism is successful (broadly) because it appeals to and taps the basest of human motivations, i.e., simple human selfishness. It becomes really petty when individuals want to split hairs regarding a need as broad as the basic collection of residential refuse.

space_nut_2006 8 years, 3 months ago

How about taking the money that would be spent on said system and use it to offer recycling incentives? Rather than punishing people for doing wrong, why not reward them for doing the right thing and recycling?

Otherwise, I agree that it's not fair that a single apartment dweller who recycles should not have to pay more to cover the trash of a large family that considers themselves 'too busy' to recycle. Whatever it is, if the system is well though-out, understandable, and enforceable (that's the tough one), then why not?

BorderRuffian 8 years, 3 months ago

Somehow I think Larryville just may have been infiltrated by a whole bunch of commies.

Kat Christian 8 years, 3 months ago

This is bullcrap. Why should Consumers be penalized when the Gov't should be getting on Manufacturers about double and trible packaging their products. Should we charge Consumers who happen to buy food products that are double and trible packaged because some choose and can afford to buy organic foods with minimal packaging. I think not. Also, if people have to pay more to put out their trash I can see them hording it in their back yards to avoid paying a fee. This is the craziness suggestion I have ever heard. Go After the Manufacturers - not the Consumers.

Kat Christian 8 years, 3 months ago

Sorry "correction" triple and can't afford

cozy 8 years, 3 months ago

I know someone who was given a brand new trashcan last tuesday that had their house number written on it, it came out of nowhere. The rental place didnt know anything about it and the city didnt know anything about it. No one else except one person way down the street (that is not a rental) seems to have been given the same new trashcan. Does anyone know anything about this? The person is taking it as an insult….How else would you take it?!

So they are going to go out and buy a new (and bigger than the one that just showed up), write trash on the "old" new one in bright paint and put it in the new trashcan for pick-up. I think it is bullsh!t that someone tried to take pitty on someone (for really no reason- they have a trashcan!) and it was actually an insult.

sustainabilitysister 8 years, 3 months ago

Sunshine.... It's called supply and and demand. Be a better consumer and purchase goods that are not heavily packaged.

Amy Heeter 8 years, 3 months ago

This plan will unravel quickly. The city will have to create a waiver program fro the elderly and low income. Any profit made by charging extra to some will end up down the riverr to pay wages for whomever ends up running the waiver program. The city might consider eliminateing the trash mans' welfare fund by paying them for the hours they actually work rather than being paid for 8 hours and only working 4 hours.

kernal 8 years, 3 months ago

I recycle and am amazed at the amount of "trash" I recycle every month. If I had a compost pile, I would have even less trash but the homeowner's association cc&r's don't allow it.

Kathy Theis-Getto 8 years, 3 months ago

Sanitation workers belong to a union, artichokeheart - I imagine those hours of pay you speak of, if that is truly the case - is negotiated. I know it is difficult sometimes to be appreciative of those who actually get up and go to work everyday, but you really should try a bit harder.

Would you be willing to pick up other people's trash?

George Lippencott 8 years, 3 months ago

Lets see. If you are a family of one you get a trash can If you are a family of six you get to pay for a bigger trash can. Should we not be paying by the warm body as opposed to some idealistic notion of what one should throw away? Or would that impact many of the posters who are in large rental buildings??

tir 8 years, 3 months ago

I recycle and don't throw away much garbage. Usually what I have goes into an Oread Neigborhood dumpster convenient to my house--there are a lot of these in the alleyways of Oread. If the city starts trying to charge people for trash pickup based on the amount they throw away, I suspect that these dumpsters, and other dumpsters located around town that belong to businesses will become the dumping ground for "excess" trash that people don't want to pay extra to have the city pick up at their own homes. I wonder what the city plans to do to prevent that? Or to prevent people from putting their trash into someone else's cans for that matter?

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