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pay-as-you-throw also PAYT

noun [uncountable]

a system in which people pay for their rubbish to be collected and the amount they pay is based on the amount of rubbish they produce



'Environment Minister Ben Bradshaw has already said he would look sympathetically at pay-as-you-throw, which would encourage recycling and allegedly make the "polluter pay".'

Daily Mail 5th October 2006

'In previous answers I've alluded to what I think is the most effective one-stroke way to reduce waste: the pay-as-you-throw system used in thousands of cities across the United States. By charging residents on the basis of the volume of waste they set out (but offering free pickup of recyclables), U.S. cities have reduced the amount of waste they dispose of by an average of 17 percent.'

New York Times 18th July 2007

The next time you guiltily throw some recyclable packaging into a rubbish bin which is already full to bursting, consider whether you would be doing the same thing if your payments for rubbish collection were linked directly to the amount of rubbish you produce. Your refuse and recycling habits could have a major impact on your wallet in the system of pay-as-you-throw.

The pay-as-you-throw approach simply means that households are charged for collection of non-recyclable rubbish, and that the amount they pay is based on the quantity and weight of the rubbish they want collected. The system usually operates with free collection of recycled waste, with the principle therefore being that 'the more you recycle, the less you pay'.

under the pay-as-you-throw system, payments for refuse collection would not be a fixed fee incorporated into local government taxes, but … a (dust) bin tax

Pay-as-you-throw schemes are already operational in many parts of the United States, where they are largely considered a cost-effective way to manage waste and encourage recycling. Over in Britain, the Institute of Public Policy Research recently urged the UK government to consider adopting pay-as-you-throw, claiming it was the only effective way to address the country's very poor recycling record, which is one of the worst in Europe.

Under the pay-as-you-throw system, payments for refuse collection would not be a fixed fee incorporated into local government taxes, but dealt with separately in what is now being referred to as a (dust) bin tax, calculated for individual households. Councils would maximise the opportunities for recycling by providing at least five different types of bins for collection of glass, paper, plastic, cardboard and (waste) food.

In preparation for the introduction of pay-as-you-throw, a number of local councils in the UK took the controversial step of installing microchips on dustbins, which can be used as a way of monitoring just how much rubbish particular households produce.

Critics of pay-as-you-throw argue that it could lead to fly-tipping (leaving waste material in areas where it should not be left), pollution of the environment through backyard burning (uncontrolled burning of household waste in back gardens and yards), and people dishonestly placing rubbish in neighbouring bins in order to avoid payments.

Background – pay-as-you-throw

The expression pay-as-you-throw, also often appearing in non-hyphenated form and sometimes abbreviated to PAYT, has been used in the United States since the 1970s, but has not gained currency in British English until quite recently. Its more widespread recognition seems partly attributable to its catchy similarity to the expression pay-as-you-go, now in regular use to refer to a system for paying for mobile phone calls. This system is also known as pay-as-you-talk and is often abbreviated to PAYT too.

by Kerry Maxwell, author of Brave New Words

This article was first published on 17th September 2007.

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