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Technology, Education are Key to Successful PAYT Program

During an upcoming WasteExpo session, a panel of experts will share case studies on PAYT waste removal programs and the technologies being utilized.

Pay-as-you-throw (PAYT) programs are frequently referred to as the “Uber” model of waste collection, often resulting in reducing the amount of waste going to an incinerator or landfill, improving flexibility and efficiency in payment of waste removal for customers and capturing data for analyzing participation and asset management. But how can municipalities implement a program that works for both the city and its customers?

At this year’s WasteExpo, a panel of experts will share case studies on PAYT waste removal programs and the technologies being utilized, what challenges are faced, what benefits exist and what the end results are during the May 7 session, “RFID, PAYT—Are These the Future of Waste?”

Robert Swain, information systems coordinator, and James Hurt, public works director, both for the Department of Public Works for the city of Grand Rapids, Mich., will present the challenges and successes they faced implementing a PAYT program in their city.

“We are excited to talk about and present our work with a PAYT program,” says Swain. “Though there are difficulties in managing this type of program, PAYT does make sense as a way to reduce trash sent to a landfill or incinerator. Each business has to decide which makes more sense by really examining the outcomes from a positive and negative perspective.”

Technology is prevalent throughout the Grand Rapids PAYT program.

“It created a behavioral change in the part of the customers,” says Hurt. “… Technology is leveraged heavily and must be working all the time. There are associated tasks in running an automated PAYT program that can make it difficult to manage.”

The Grand Rapids PAYT program is set up with RFID-enabled waste and recycling carts, which are either purchased new or are existing and have been retro-fitted. A web form was created as an account sign up.

“We have this as an option for web-savvy customers who may not want to do this over the phone or in person. We do offer all these options as a way to sign up for service,” says Swain.

Payment processors allow customers to make a deposit to their account with multiple pre-paid options. RFID readers were added as onboard tablets to all vehicles. Data is transmitted wirelessly every couple of minutes.

Educating customers on how a self-managed program would work was key to the success of the program.

“[This was a] very important step as many people are used to a traditional quarterly billed option,” says Swain. “It has also been a challenge for the older population or people not motivated to self-manage an account.”

Driver training also was imperative to the city’s PAYT implementation.

“This was a large evolutionary change for the drivers as they were used to going down the road and grabbing any bag or tipping any cart they see,” says Hurt.

According to Swain, the end results of an effective PAYT program include improved environmental sustainability, lowered workers compensation costs (through use of automated side-loading trucks) and reduced amount of waste as material that is burned or landfilled, which is now being diverted to a materials recovery facility instead.

Rodney Jamison, deputy director of operations for the city of Charlotte, N.C., rounds out the list of panelists.

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