DEEP: Pay as you Throw (PAYT) Programs in Connecticut

SMART Programs In Connecticut
(Save Money And Reduce Trash)
 ? Are you looking for a way to secure adequate funding to pay for your municipality's solid waste management costs without relying on property tax increases? 
 ? Do you want more control over your municipality's spiraling increases in solid waste generation and associated waste management costs? 
 ? Is there room for improvement in your municipality's recycling participation rate or waste reduction efforts?  

If Your Answer to Any of These Questions is YES...then

SMART May Be Your Solution!

What Is SMART?

SMART, also known as Pay-As-You-Throw (PAYT) and Unit Based Pricing, is a method of charging for trash disposal based on the amount disposed.  A handful of Connecticut municipalities have joined the over 7,000 communities nationwide that have successfully implemented SMART programs. This means that households in their towns are charged for waste collection based on the amount of waste they throw away - in the same way that they are charged for electricity, gas, and other utilities, providing incentives for residents to not only increase the amount they recycle, but also to think about ways to generate less waste in the first place.

SMART programs are flexible and work in many types of communities at the curb or at the transfer station using variable sized bags or carts.  The pricing of the bags or carts is structured so that residents are incentivized to choose a smaller size, thus reducing the amount of trash generated and increasing composting and recycling.

SMART unit-based pricing is a low-cost strategy that can help Connecticut municipalities achieve the State Solid Waste Management Plan target of doubling the state’s source reduction/recycling rate from 30% (2005 estimated recycling rate) to 60% by 2024. SMART Unit Based Pricing programs really do provide waste management solutions that make economic sense, are fair to residents and benefit the environment.

SMART Saves Money

The U.S. EPA and the Connecticut DEEP are renewing efforts to help towns recognize how much they are currently spending on solid waste disposal and how much they can save in disposal costs by shifting to SMART unit-based pricing. Transparency of solid waste management costs coupled with SMART economic signals (creating a connection between reducing costs and reducing trash) incentivizes households to produce less trash.

Communities that implement unit-based pricing (SMART) programs, typically see a decrease in overall solid waste production, with a final disposal rate of 400-600 pounds per person per year (compared to the national average rate of disposal of 1,124 lbs per person/yr) with associated increases in recycling and source reduction of waste. (EPA )

A 2003 Reason Foundation study found that SMART (PAYT) programs resulted in a 17 percent drop in garbage tonnage, with a significant increase in both recycling and source reduction. Dr. Kenneth Green, the study's project director and chief scientist at the Reason Foundation at the time stated that: "Pay-As-You-Throw programs encourage recycling, composting, and source reduction -- and source reduction is the cheapest waste management strategy. (EPA PAYT Bulletin – Winter 2003 )  That results in big cost savings to cities and towns, and provides an important ability to control future costs of trash disposal. This can happen in Connecticut cities and towns.

Environmental Benefits of SMART

The increased recycling and source reduction achieved through unit-based pricing not only reduces disposal costs, but is linked to environmental benefits as well – i.e. conservation of natural resources, reduced water use, reduced emissions of air and water pollutants, energy savings, reduction in green house emissions, etc.  A 2006 EPA SMART report concluded that:  “PAYT programs currently operating in the US are leading to reductions of: 2.1-3.8 million metric tons of carbon equivalents annually.”

The EPA’s Waste Reduction Model (WARM) will allow you to calculate the environmental benefits of increasing your municipality’s source reduction and recycling rates.

Resources to Help Municipalities Implement a SMART Program

The following resources can help you: (1) decide if SMART Unit Based Pricing is the right solution for your municipality and (2) implement a SMART program in your city or town if you decide to do so.

The U.S. EPA has prepared factsheets and implementation tools which are available free to any town interested in Unit Based Pricing design and implementation. To find out more about EPA’s collection of products, visit their PAYT website.
  • SMART BET  (Saving Money And Reducing Trash Benefit Evaluation Tool) - A tool designed to help community waste managers decide whether unit-based pricing (PAYT) for solid waste management is the right model for their town or city.  (EPA)

SMART BET Tool Users Need the Following Minimum Information:

  • The population to be affected by PAYT
  • Tons of waste disposed (i.e., landfilled or combusted) for the PAYT population
  • Tons of waste recycled and composted for the PAYT population
  • Disposal cost per ton (landfill tipping fee or combustion facility fee)
  • Cost of recycling per ton

Additional Information That Can Refine the Results:

  • Indicate if waste is sent to a landfill or a combustor
  • The distance in miles to the landfill or combustion facility
  • The composition of the disposal stream in percent by weight of various material types
  • The composition of the recycling/composting stream in percent by weight of various material types


  • Connecticut DEEP SMART (PAYT) Implementation Handbook - The DEEP SMART (PAYT) Implementation Handbook is a step-by-step guide to assist municipal officials in implementing a Unit Based Pricing program.  Several worksheets are available to assist communities in exploring how unit-based pricing might work in your community.
Worksheet 1: Identifying Program Goals
Worksheet 2: Municipal Profile
Worksheet 3: Political Considerations
Worksheet 4: Container and Pricing Choices
Worksheet 5: Rate Structure
Worksheet 6: Potential Barriers
Worksheet 7: Public Outreach
Worksheet 8: Implementation Checklist
Worksheet 9: Monitoring and Evaluation

  • SMART Implementation Guidebooks for Specific Connecticut Municipalities - These guidebooks provide examples of how SMART programs could be implemented and benefit Connecticut municipalities.  They were prepared by Kristen Brown of Green Waste Solutions, a SMART unit-based-pricing consultant to US EPA and the DEEP. 
Bridgeport  SMART Guidebook
Darien SMART Guidebook
Easton  SMART Guidebook
Greenwich  SMART Guidebook
Milford  SMART Guidebook
Monroe  SMART Guidebook 
Norwalk SMART Guidebook
Orange  SMART Guidebook
Shelton  SMART Guidebook
Trumbull  SMART Guidebook
Weston  SMART Guidebook 
Westport  SMART Guidebook
A list of Massachusetts State contracted vendors of SMART Unit Based Pricing bags can be accessed on the Massachusetts DEP website.
  • Making the Case for SMART Materials Management (PDF, 2,200K) – A CT DEEP prepared presentation used to provide an overview of materials management in CT and provide case studies for why the Save Money and Reduce Trash program works for any municipality.  Can be used to make the case for changing how municipal solid waste is managed to residents, civic groups, or town officials.
  • Pay-As-You-Throw, An Integrated Approach to Solid Waste Management (PDF, 529K) - A DEEP prepared presentation that explains the basics of PAYT concepts; economic, equity and environmental benefits; program planning, etc. Can be used to introduce PAYT to residents, civic groups or town officials. 
    SMART Waste Management - Redefining the Way Connecticut Residents Value Trash (PDF, 2.2MB) - A 2009 presentation prepared by Kristen Brown of Green Waste Solutions gives an overview of the success of SMART in New England and around the world.  It summarizes the customized technical assistance provided to Bridgeport area towns during 2009 through CT's partnership with US EPA to encourage towns to get SMART about their solid waste management. Slide #35 has estimates of how much each town is projected to save by reducing their disposal costs for their trash.
  • City of Torrington, Unit Pricing Municipal Solid Waste, PAYT (PDF, 607K) - A comprehensive presentation prepared in 2000 by the solid waste manager for the city of Torrington.  This presentation explains in an easy to understand way, the entire waste and recycling management system in the city as it existed in 2000, including current costs and projected savings through PAYT.  Although some of the figures would need to be updated to reflect today's conditions, it still can be used as a model for other towns when presenting this kind of information to town officials and residents.
  • SMART Waste Management to Reduce Disposal and Increase Recycling - Diane Duva, DEEP, EPA Webinar, April 2009

  • SMART Waste Management: Changing the Way American's Value Trash - Kristen Brown, Green Waste Solutions, EPA Webinar, April 2009

Transfer Station Programs in CT

There are about 30 programs at municipal transfer stations in CT, varying from stickers and punch cards to pay-per-bag.  The following is not an inclusive listing, but can be used to compare program features and pricing for municipalities interested in implementing a program at their transfer station. When reviewing these programs, please keep in mind that a SMART program is most effective when (1) most of the households in a municipality participate in the program and (2) when the cost structure is designed to provide a real incentive to reduce the amount of trash disposed.

DEEP Contacts

If you have any questions or if you are interested in learning more about SMART, please contact Jennifer Weymouth at (860) 424-3508.

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Content last updated - January 2019