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.

The Reason Foundation's Presentation (pdf) concludes that "unlike recycling programs which only encourage recycling, Pay-As-You-Throw or SMART programs reward all behaviors - recycling, composting and source reduction - that reduce the amount of garbage thrown away. Source reduction is the cheapest waste management strategy and thus of the highest priority" (2002).

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 Articles & Research Archive)

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. 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.

CT Resources 
  • 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
  • Sustainable CT, a voluntary certification program for municipalities, identifies SMART as a best practice that municipalities can earn points towards certification.

  • Northeast Waste Management Officials Association provides case studies, outreach materials, workshop presentations and a SMART toolkit for rural communities.  
  • Massachusetts DEP has extensive resources available including data and program information for existing MA SMART programs, an implementation guide, fact sheets, presentations, and case studies. 
  • Massachusetts DEP also shares SMART Bag Vendors on State Contract with communities interested in contracting for bag administration and distribution services.
CT Transfer Station Programs

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 - February 2019