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Save Money and Reduce Trash (SMART)

SMART, also known as Pay-As-You-Throw (PAYT), is a method of charging for trash disposal based on the amount disposed. SMART is globally recognized as the single most effective action a municipality can take to reduce waste, increase recycling, and reduce climate impact. SMART is a key cost savings strategy for municipalities to meet the state's 60% diversion goal by 2024. The State has long identified SMART as a key strategy for reducing waste; most recently in the State's Comprehensive Materials Management Strategy (2016) and previously in the Modernizing Recycling Working Group Recommendations (2012) and the State's Solid Waste Management Plan (original dated 1991, amended in 2006).

SMART is:

  • Fiscally Responsible
  • Environmentally Responsible
  • Socially Responsible

How It WorksPay As You Throw is working

How it Works

SMART is a system in which residents pay for municipal solid waste (MSW) services per unit of waste discarded rather than solely through a fixed fee or property tax. When residents pay directly for waste disposal services, they are provided with a financial incentive to reduce their waste through reuse or donations, waste reduction, recycling, and composting.

A variety of states (MA, ME, RI, VT) including CT, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Northeast Recycling Council (NERC), and the Northeast Waste Management Officials Association (NEWMOA) have evaluated SMART and agree that it is essential to achieving sustainable materials management at the state and municipal level.

A handful of Connecticut municipalities have joined the over 7,000 communities nationwide (EPA) 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.  This provides incentives for residents to not only increase the amount they recycle and donate but also to think about ways to generate less waste in the first place.

The Steps to Pay as you throw

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.

Implement SMART first before other materials management programs.  Residents are more likely to participate in curbside or drop-off food collection programs if they already actively manage their trash (ILSR, 2018).  Education and outreach programs help increase awareness and participation levels but do not reduce waste at the magnitude of a SMART program.

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” (The Reason Foundation, 2002). 

SMART is Fiscally Responsible
Communities that implement SMART reduce waste by 40 - 55% resulting in an average rate of waste disposed per person of between 400 and 500 pounds per year.  CT’s estimated average rate of disposal is 740 pounds per person per year. Significant savings on avoided tipping costs and hauling expenses are realized with less trash disposed of per resident, therefore municipalities pay less.  

Pay as you throw is a fiscally responsible model 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.  Because residents immediately feel the pinch when they throw away trash, they pay attention.  And through paying attention to what can be recycled in the blue bin, donated to a thrift store, or reused reduces waste and reduces what a resident spends on trash.  This results in less tonnage hauled and tipped at the waste-to-energy facility.  

SMART results in big cost savings to cities and towns, and provides an important ability to control future costs of trash disposal. As an example, Stonington, CT has saved over $7M on avoided waste disposal costs since implementing SMART in 1992.   By implementing SMART, and reducing trash management costs, municipalities have the opportunity to free up critical funds for use elsewhere in their budgets.  SMART is a key cost savings strategy to help municipalities meet diversion goal of 60% by 2024 as outlined in the 2016 Comprehensive Materials Management Strategy.

SMART is Environmentally Responsible

SMART programs divert materials from CT’s waste-to-energy facilities and into the materials reuse and recycling streams.  Reuse and recycling materials uses less energy and in turn generates less greenhouse gas emissions than burning or landfilling trash. 

Statewide implementation of SMART would result in reducing greenhouse gases by the equivalent of installing one solar panel on every house in CT (Waste Zero and EPA GHG Equivalencies Calculator).

Pay as you throw toolkit

Success Stories

  • Mansfield, CT residents generate 500 pounds of trash per capita annually compared to average CT resident of 740 pounds
  • Stonington, CT has saved $7M on trash since 1992
  • The Northeast Waste Management Officials Association (NEWMOA) developed case studies on several rural communities in New England for others to learn from
  • Massachusetts has 153 communities with SMART (or Pay as You Throw) with an average waste generation of 432 pounds per person annually (MA DEP and Waste Zero).  MA DEP Case Studies are available to learn how programs in curbside and drop-off communities were implemented

Case Studies to Learn From

  • Columbia, CT 
Transfer Stations Pricing Examples in Connecticut

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.

Have Questions? 

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

Reduce/Reuse/Recycle

Content last updated June 15, 2020