San Antonio residents weigh evolving PAYT options

Dive Brief:

  • Residents in San Antonio are being given pay-as-you-throw choices for different cart sizes — 96-gallon, 64-gallon or 48-gallon — all for similar prices. They also get blue and green bins for free. However this system could soon change in an effort to encourage more waste diversion, as reported by the San Antonio Express-News. 
  • City officials, who have been holding community meetings for more than a year, say that many residents have chosen to stick with the largest size as a precaution because the price is only $1.75 higher than the smallest size.
  • The city is now considering a different price scale as part of the FY 2018 budget which could take effect this fall to motivate more residents to switch to the 48-gallon option.

Dive Insight:

San Antonio set a goal of 60% residential diversion by 2025 as part of the new recycling plan though so far is only about halfway there. Contamination in blue and green bins has been a problem, which the city started addressing last summer by issuing $25 fines. So far about 350 fines and more than 7,800 warnings have been issued.

The city only services residential accounts, therefore waste streams are less apt to have large variations of materials yet many residents could likely fit everything in a smaller cart if they chose to make full use of the recycling and organics collection options as well. As seen in countries such as Taiwan — one of the world's recycling leaders — and a growing number of municipalities throughout the U.S., a system with notable financial benefits for proper waste separation can lead to higher diversion rates.

The nearby city of Austin saw success with its own pay-as-you-throw program though recently had to reassess its efforts to reach "zero waste" by 2020 after stalling around the 50% mark. While not directly comparable, San Antonio is still doing better than Texas' statewide average of less than 19% but may end up taking more aggressive measures to see real progress.

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Filed Under: Collections & Transfer Recycling Waste Diversion