Saturday, October 18, 2014

Letter about Waste Composition Study ------Travis Blackmer


My name is Travis Blackmer. I am graduate student and researcher at the University of Maine. For the past four years I have been investigating the world of Municipal Solid Waste. I began as a Maine Waste Composition Study project leader in 2011. Hand sorting waste was not a dream of mine as a child, but it was an eye opening experience that led to a great dialogue with waste and recycling directors at the Maine Resource Recovery Association 2012 annual conference and the  2012 ecomaine annual Board Meeting. We presented a common theme: the effectiveness of Pay-As-You-Throw (PAYT) at limiting the waste stream.

The towns utilizing PAYT confirmed our views. Towns that did not have PAYT had a consistent question: where does the waste go? Looking at a handful of towns we saw that waste tonnages were cut in half on average, but only 1/4 of that waste reduction ended up in the recycling stream. For larger Maine municipalities, that is over 100 tons of waste that had (or would be expected to) evaporate.

That would be a major concern. If the idea behind PAYT is to reduce the waste stream, the public mistrust of the actual effectiveness would reduce town and citizens’ willingness to introduce PAYT. The negative behavior most associated with PAYT is illegal dumping. No widespread occurrences of illegal dumping were prevalent among PAYT communities. In multiple cases the offenders were identified by the waste contents and fined accordingly.  There are other behaviors possibly accounting for the waste stream lost tonnage. Finding commercial dumpsters, composting, purchasing products with less packaging, more reuse, and burning trash are among some of the behaviors households  could take that may explain this phenomenon.

Our web survey looks to capture how households interact and perceive the waste stream, what behaviors households are making in response to PAYT, and their general attitudes towards how their waste stream impacts the outside world. I am looking to survey towns that both have PAYT as well as towns that do not have PAYT. The distribution of this link to places where people can notice it with a abstract explaining its purpose is vital. Your willingness to assist in my research would be greatly appreciated. I thank you for your time.

Editors Note:  PAYT - Pay as you throw  ---- I believe illegal dumping is a big problem with communities that adopt PAYT programs.   Those of you who hunt and spend time in the woods are fully aware of the illegal dumping problem. 

Travis Blackmer
Graduate Assistant
School of Economics
University of MaineB