Switch from a flat rate payment plan to pay-as-you-go, which trash services call “pay-as-you-throw.” PAYT services track your usage with tags, stickers, or specially marked bags. The fewer of these you use, the less you pay.
PAYT delivers enormous savings. During 1997-2008, I paid a flat fee of about $250 per year. When I switched to PAYT and recycled more, my cost shrank to $34—saving me $216 annually. (I still kick myself for not figuring this out sooner.)
24.1 Choose PAYT and Reduce Your Refuse
Call trash services and ask whether they offer PAYT. (Note: many services don’t advertise PAYT because they make more money from flat fees—so you might have to call.) Once you switch to PAYT, reduce the volume of trash you generate with these key tactics.
□ 24.1.1 Recycle
This is a great first step. Most recycle centers accept paper, cardboard, glass, plastics, aluminum, and steel.
□ 24.1.2 Compost
Composting is pure magic: you save money as you help grow food. Even if you don’t garden yourself, a neighbor might.
□ 24.1.3 Reduce Yard Trimmings
Use mulching lawnmowers; plant xeriscapes (visit LessLawn.com).
□ 24.1.4 Ditch Disposables
Switch to reusable products: cloth for paper towels, silverware for plastic ware, permanent coffee filters for paper ones, etc.
□ 24.1.5 Cut Food Waste
For effective tactics, see 37.6.
□ 24.1.6 Repair and Reuse
Just because it’s broken doesn’t mean it’s ready for the trash heap.
□ 24.1.7 Sell or Donate
Don’t toss items you can convert into cash, or, at a minimum, into healthy tax deductions.
□ 24.1.8 Practice Responsible Disposal
Watch for annual drives that collect items recycle centers don’t accept, including Styrofoam, batteries, paint, tires, and hazardous chemicals. Home Depot takes in expired CFLs. Radio Shack collects dead rechargeable batteries. Best Buy accepts electronics of all kinds—even if you bought them elsewhere. For details, visit BestBuy.com.
□ 24.1.9 Halt Junk Mail
Yes, you can recycle the paper, but you can also stop most of it before it ever reaches your mailbox. Several websites operate “no mail” lists: CatalogChoice.org, 41Pounds.org, or PrivacyCouncil.org.
□ 24.1.10 Avoid Excessive Packaging
Favor products in recyclable containers. Buy foods in bulk. Filter your own water. Buy secondhand items that have already shed their packaging.
□ 24.1.11 Compact
With PAYT, it pays to reduce. Stomp stuff down with your feet. If your service charges $50 to haul away old mattresses and couches, grab utility knives and wire clippers. Recycle the steel coils, feed the wood to the fireplace, and discard the much-reduced remainder.
□ 24.1.12 Burn, Baby Burn
This works in rural areas, but creates air pollution. Before firing yourself up for this option, check the local regulations.
□ 24.1.13 Post a Trash Talking Checklist
Remind cohabitants to mind what they toss. See Appendix 5.
CODA: TRASH COMPACTORS AND GARBAGE DISPOSALS
Neither of these provide good options. Compactors cost money upfront, often require specialized bags, and consume kilowatts. Foot stomping works almost as well. Garbage disposals consume water and electricity. And if you’re on a leach field, heavy disposal use means more septic tank pumping. Composting works better.
24.2 Cut Costs under a Flat Rate Payment Plan
□ 24.2.1 Lobby for PAYT Pricing
You save, and your hauler wins societal brownie points for promoting greener behaviors.
□ 24.2.2 Schedule Less Frequent Pick-ups
Some haulers charge less if you put out the trash every other week.
□ 24.2.3 Split Costs With Neighbors
Share collection expenses with one neighbor, and cut your costs in half; share with two neighbors, and cut your costs by two-thirds.
□ 24.2.4 Haggle as a Group
If multiple trash companies serve your area, band together with neighbors and throw your “collective” business to the lowest bidder.
□ 24.2.5 Haul it Yourself
Before undertaking this, account for landfill fees, fuel costs, vehicle wear, and the value of your time. The trash service might be cheaper.
□ 24.2.6 Join “Trash Pools”
You and neighbors take turns hauling everyone’s refuse away.
□ 24.2.7 Seek Discounts
Some services offer price breaks to seniors and the disabled. Ask your trash hauler whether you qualify.
□ 24.2.8 Burn, Baby Burn
Reduce your trash pursuant to 24.1 and torch the rest. Check your local regulations.