As a switch to municipal composting will require Troy citizens to change their behavior with respect to solid waste, significant efforts will be necessary to make clear the new disposal requirements and the reasoning behind them. In their survey of PAYT systems in the U.S., waste consultants Skumatz and associates found that education was indispensable for ensuring change[1].

This education should take place at multiple levels. The rules for waste disposal will need to be made clear to all residents and property owners, through information available on the Troy website, information packets and refuse guidelines, and through the Department of Sanitation. The reasoning behind these rules will also need to be made clear, through a broad-based public education campaign. Reducing waste should be a value shared by all Troy citizens.

Strong enforcement will also be necessary to prevent illegal dumping and improper disposal. Diligent enforcement of the new disposal regulations by DPW staff will help to ensure that the new regulations on disposal generate positive change in the waste stream.

Specific Recommendations:

  • Create a broad-based public education campaign on recycling and composting, including changes to the City of Troy website, fliers, signage and other media.
  • Improve source separation in public spaces by providing visible public recycling bins on sidewalks and in all city and state government buildings.
  • Itemize solid waste costs on tax bills.
  • Enforce recycling and waste policies at curbside collection.





3.2.1 // Public Education Campaign on Recycling and Composting

Education is vital for implementing any new waste management program. An education campaign should explain the new system not just in terms of how to compost, but also why a composting program is being implemented. The EPA SERA report advises that education programs "address the problem solved by the new system, how the system works, opportunities to reduce waste, and where to get more information.”[2]

The recycling page on the City of Troy website currently offers information about the single-stream recycling program[3]. The CWG-C recommends expanding this information to include images, information in Spanish, details about the operation of single-stream facilities, instructions on obtaining blue recycling bins, and a reference explaining recycling collection days and times by neighborhood. The information included on this page should cover not just what can be recycled and when, but how those materials get used and why recycling is important. The CWG-C further recommends an additional page on food scraps collection, with a similar array of resources and a description of the composting process. This website can include instructions for backyard composting and contacts for neighborhood composting groups.

Education beyond the website should take place through informational mailers and doorknob hangers that explain the new source separation system and the reasoning behind it, posters, stickers, and magnets that guide citizens through the source separation process, and tabling and outreach at public events.

This education campaign can draw on a variety of networks and resources that already exist in Troy: neighborhood associations (TNAC), educational institutions (RPI, Sage, HVCC, Troy’s public and private schools, etc.) and student organizations (Green Greeks, Sustainability Task Force, THS's Environmental Club, etc.), community groups and organizations (Unity House, Transition Troy, etc.), and a culture of community events (TNO, TWFM) offer channels for distributing information about composting. The vibrant community of artists (Design-it-Together, No Name Design), media-makers (Sanctuary for Independent Media, RPI's E-Arts Department), and student power (Student Sustainability Task Force, Public Service Interns, Art Community and Technology Class) in Troy offer resources for communicating the details of a new composting program in order to raise awarenss and participation. Using resources like these, Troy could produce, distribute, and make available literature and media about composting on the individual, neighborhood, and municipal scales. These education campaigns and the design of information can fall under the auspices of a Recycling and Composting Coordinator.

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Figure 3.2.1: Examples of Transit Ads in Alameda County, CA to promote their municipal composting
("food scrap recycling") program. Slogan: "Food Scrap Recycling. Make it Second Nature."
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Examples of Billboard Ads in Alameda County, CA. Slogan:
"Help today's food scraps become the soil of tomorrow." For more examples from this campaign, see:
http://www.stopwaste.org/home/index.asp?page=710
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Figure 3.2.2: Text-only guide to materials for San Francisco's source separation system, found in local newspaper.

3.2.2 Improved Public Source Separation


By placing recycling bins alongside waste bins in public spaces, such as sidewalks and government buildings, the City of Troy can make it clear that source separation is simple to accomplish and that citizens
should// be recycling, no matter where they are.

Sidewalk recycling bins are in use in many U.S. cities, including Albany, NY, New York City, NY, Great Barrington, MA, Cleveland, OH, and many others. In Great Barrington, artists used found materials to sculpt new bins in a collaboration between the town, a community group of artists, and the Center for Ecological Technology. Fifteen local artists were chosen to create the bins that are strategically placed along Main and Railroad Streets, the main commercial corridors. Along similar lines, the City of Troy could engage with its vibrant arts community to produce visible, artistic recycling bins for public use.

The CWG-C recommends that government buildings and offices in Troy lead recycling efforts by example by making available visible, accessible receptacles with informative, bilingual and non-verbal signage.

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City of Albany's custom municipal recycling container
Figure 3.2.3: City of Albany's custom municipal recycling container
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Figure 3.2.4: Public recycling bins in Great Barrington, MA

3.2.3 Itemize solid waste costs on tax bills or separation into a unified fee


It is important for residents to understand their financial stake in the recycling and composting system. Currently, homeowners see no fee for the collection of solid waste, and a $29 yearly fee for recycling collection, while the city spends more than $80 per household per year to dump municipal garbage, and far more to pay for trash pickup and management equipment. These hidden costs result in people not being aware that their actions (failing to separate their waste stream) have real financial implications on themselves and their neighbors. The CWG-C recommends, as part of the implementation of a pay-as-you-throw (PAYT) system (and prior to it), the itemization of these costs in a method that makes them more transparent to residents. Methods for itemization are detailed in table 3.2.1.

The hidden cost for disposal results in a large percentage of residents believing that garbage collection is free. They are unaware that the cost of trash collection and disposal is included in the property tax. It is difficult for residents to understand the potential economic benefits of recycling without seeing the direct impact on their taxes


3.2.4
Enforcement

Enforcement is necessary to make sure that the costs of noncompliance with recycling code are not borne by the taxpayers at large, but by those who do not comply with local and state standards for waste separation and recovery. Adopting a PAYT system will require new forms of enforcement, as residents may consider avoiding disposal costs by dumping trash illegally. The CWG-C recommends empowering DPW sanitation staff and other Municipal employees to issue recycling and trash violations in order to enforce city code.

City Code, Section 234-5 states that "failure to comply with this chapter [outlining waste separation requirements for the city recycling program] by any person or firm shall be deemed a violation punishable by a fine no greater than $250 or imprisonment no longer than 15 days, or both". Compliance with this has not been enforced except in the most egregious of cases in recent years. Therefore the CWG-C recommends phasing in increased enforcement, starting with probationary warnings and followed up with fines of between $50 and $100. While fines should not be seen as a source of income, they should be used to pay for the additional waste disposal costs incurred due to low recycling and composting rates.

Table 3.2.1: Itemization of solid waste bills:

Itemization of Trash Fees on Tax Bills
Unified Waste Disposal and Reclamation Fee.
Pay-per-bag fee structure
Pay by volume of bin
Garbage by the pound
Details
Delineating the average cost of waste disposal per household on each tax bill.
Adding an approximation of annual garbage disposal costs to each household's recycling fee, thereby creating a more balanced view of the waste system
Residents must buy specially marked trash bags or marking tags in order to throw away garbage. The price of these bags/tags is set by the cost of managing that quantity of waste and the fee goes directly to the city to pay for collection and disposal.
Residents all pay an averaged waste disposal fee in the form of a charge for a bin. If they consistently do not fill the bin, they may apply for a smaller bin, with a lower associated fee. If they constantly over-flow their bin, they may be required to upgrade to a larger or second bin.
Residents are charged by the pound for waste they produce. This involves marked bins, identifying tags, and on-truck scales that measure the weight of garbage produced by each household.
Pros
Inexpensive, simple
Inexpensive and simple. Sets the stage for changing fee structures and is therefore a better lead in to PAYT systems than keeping it on the tax bill.
Easy to understand, creates clear cost incentives for residents to reduce their waste generation, is the most adaptable of the PAYT systems because it does not require bin size changes as residents change their waste volume, has low up-front costs for the city as it does not require new bins or trucks
Has been successful in San Francisco, errs on the side of collecting more revenue if residents are not proactive in reducing their collection needs. Less complicated structure on the residents' side (no approved bags required).
Most accurate and simple system for consumers as it charges them directly for what they produce in the same way that the city is charged. This is analogous to a water metering system and is therefore easy to understand.
Cons
Builds awareness, but does not empower residents to do anything to reduce their burden.
Builds awareness, but does not empower residents to do anything to reduce their burden.
This system is complicated to create, requiring collaboration with local vendors, or city-managed distribution of bags/tags. There are also risks with regard to compliance as it may be difficult to track down and enforce payment if people illegally dump garbage in unmarked bags.
High up-front set up costs for the city to purchase and distribute new bins. Does not scale fees to fit consumers as quickly or easily as a bag or garbage by-the-pound system.
High up-front costs to set up bins and trucks to weigh and record waste produced by each household, may not affect behavior as directly as the bag-fee structure. Requires more sanitation staff as weighing and recording amounts slows current collection routine.

With a bag tag or encoded bin system (implemented as part of PAYT) DPW Sanitation staff can more efficiently cite and fine violations of recycling and trash disposal codes using digital technologies similar to the handheld computers used for ticketing parking violations in New York City. Traffic agents with these devices may be emboldened by the precision of their equipment: "the city has furnished all traffic enforcement agents with handheld computers that spit out more tickets in less time and with fewer errors than handwritten tickets. The device scans a vehicle’s registration sticker for some information and the agent, using a stylus, fills in the rest"[4]. Similarly, modern tagging and database technology can enable city workers, at relatively low cost and time, to issue warnings and fines to households which are not complying by source separation law.

It is the recommendation of the CWG-C that a tiered system be created that starts with an educational warning, in case residents are not currently aware of their responsibilities under city code, then begins charging those who are consistently in violation. One major challenge in Troy will be determining the responsible party where the bill-holder is not present. The landlord database should be made available for this purpose.



[1] Lisa A. Skumatz and David J. Freeman, “Pay as you Throw (PAYT) in the US: 2006 Update and Analyses”, Skumatz Economic Research Associates, Inc., Superior CO, (December 2006).
[2] Ibid.
[3] “Recycling,” City of Troy, NY, accessed January 12, 2013, http://troyny.gov/Departments/PublicWorks/Recycling.aspx
[4]Jo Craven McGinty and Ralph Blumenthal, "Adding to the City’s Coffers, One Ticket at a Time," The New York Times, November 27, 2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/28/nyregion/28parking.html?pagewanted=all.