Recent Community Compasses have painted a rosy picture of the new “Pay as You Throw” plan, which uses bags imprinted with the logo of WasteZero.

Our group, Repeal PAYT, urges all residents of Waterville to examine the pros and cons carefully, as we have done. We feel confident that our neighbors will agree that the obvious costs clearly outweigh the possible benefits. We don’t think Waterville needs city and county government officials to echo WasteZero’s talking points. We have enough common sense to know better than to pay through the nose for a product we don’t need. We can see that PAYT isn’t right for Waterville because it isn’t fair, it isn’t smart and it’s not honest.

• PAYT is not fair. This plan imposes an undue burden on those least able to afford it, especially those on fixed incomes. PAYT will be a sizable and regressive use tax, with no provisions for hardship or other abatements. Contrary to the assertions of PAYT’s proponents, renters already pay into the municipal solid waste system through their rent; charging them a fee on top of that would make them pay twice, just as it would for homeowners. In addition, comparing trash collection to metered utilities is misleading. Sanitation is not a consumable, but a service provided to ensure public health. If I choose not to use much water or electricity, it doesn’t harm my neighbors, but if my garbage is not disposed of quickly or properly, it hurts everyone.

• PAYT is not a smart, eco-friendly solution to trash disposal. PAYT is not recycling and won’t solve the disposal problem. At most, about 20 percent of trash can be recycled; the majority cannot be because it is composed of organics and unrecyclable paper or plastics. This garbage won’t just go away. If it doesn’t go into metered trash, it moves elsewhere, often to the roadside. This is what happened in Presque Isle, when that city brought in a PAYT system, and we can expect more illegal dumping in Waterville with PAYT.

If we aim to reduce waste tonnage, we might pursue a more vigorous municipal composting program, which could potentially divert 40 percent of the waste stream. If done in cooperation with local farmers, it would be a win-win, for both the local economy and environment. If, however, the goal is to generate income without the appearance of raising taxes, imposing a fee-per-bag system supports this, while blaming those who don’t make the “right” choices.

• PAYT is not honest. Adding a fee on top of our taxes, in order to avoid saying you have raised taxes, is a gimmick. PAYT’s “revenue stream” is not earmarked, but can be used for anything, with the fees raised at will. Trash disposal is not the root of our current budget crisis, so it should not be made the cash cow to cover other spending.

Moreover, the PAYT plan will send a portion of the fee per bag — more than $100,000 per year — out of state, to WasteZero of South Carolina. WasteZero neither collects nor recycles; it produces and stocks “custom” trash bags in our local stores and provides “accounting services” (simply counting the number of bags sold and sending Waterville’s portion back to the city). WasteZero pledges that you pay based on how much you save; since they will be the ones keeping the books, they can determine the eventual size of their fees, and we will be stuck with rising bag prices and clean-up bills.

The fundamental problem with PAYT is that it breaks down the civil compact in which we share common costs for the common good. This plan shifts the burden away from the city as a whole onto individuals, some of whom cannot afford it, but cannot opt out, while transferring benefits to a corporation that is not accountable to Waterville’s residents.

Members of Repeal PAYT tried to bring these facts to the attention of our elected representatives, but most dismissed our concerns as ignorance and failed to answer our objections. Many residents, from all walks of life and all political positions, questioned the wisdom of this proposal, which skims money from our most vulnerable residents without solving the real problems of trash disposal or the budget.

The City Council’s response was to agree to hold a referendum after the fact. Perhaps councilors hope that we will all get used to the new fees and forget about the issue. We urge Waterville residents to remember, and vote to repeal PAYT next June 9.

Sara A. Taddeo of Waterville is a representative of Repeal Pay as You Throw.


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