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).
- Fiscally Responsible
- Environmentally Responsible
- Socially Responsible
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.
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
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 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).
- SMART Fact Sheet
- An Analysis of SMART for CT Municipalities (Waste Zero 2016-2018)
- CT DEEP Checklist for earning points through Sustainable CT, a statewide program run by the Institute for Sustainable Energy at Eastern Connecticut State University. Sustainable CT inspires and supports communities to become more efficient, resilient, and inclusive. Under Action 7.6 “Implement Save Money and Reduce Trash (SMART) program,” municipalities can earn points under this and other actions for efforts to reduce residential trash generation.
- The Northeast Waste Management Officials Association (NEWMOA) 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, fact sheets, presentations, and case studies.
- MA DEP Pay-As-You-Throw: An Implementation Guide for Solid Waste Unit-Based Pricing Programs
- MA DEP SMART Bag Vendors on State Contract for bag administration and distribution services
- National League of Cities identifies PAYT (aka SMART) as top strategy to reduce municipal solid waste.
- Institute for Local Self Reliance analyzed data revealing that PAYT (aka SMART) is “the single most effective way to educate and motivate residents to reduce, reuse, recycle and compost” and is recognized as the vital first step to reaching zero waste.
A growing number of communities across the country are using PAYT programs. Case studies and testimonials from municipal officials on their PAYT programs are available at the hyperlink below.
- Mansfield, CT residents generate 500 pounds of trash per capita annually compared to average CT resident of 740 pounds
- Middletown, RI the recycling rate increased from 18% to 42% after PAYT started
- Natick, MA the recycling rate increased dramatically from 23% the year before to 37% after PAYT started
- Needham, MA decreased its waste tonnage disposed by 41% from 1999 to 2000
- Seekonk, MA residents generate 437 pounds of trash per capita annually with a curbside PAYT/SMART bag in cart program
- Southold, NY estimates that their PAYT program has saved the Town over $8M since 1993
- 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
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.
If you have any questions or if you are interested in learning more about SMART, please contact Jennifer Weymouth at 860-424-3508.
Content last updated November 2023