This month, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut, launched a pay-as-you-throw (PAYT) pilot program in select locations across campus to advance the university’s goals around responsible waste management.
PAYT charges households for waste collection based on the amount of trash they throw away, just as utilities are charged based on usage. According to the university, the programs reduce waste and increase diversion (reuse and recycling) by creating a monetary incentive to generate less trash.
Yale is the first American university to pilot PAYT, which is being used increasingly by municipalities across the country and abroad. Connecticut has "successfully" implemented PAYT programs. The state says the programs get residents to not only increase the amount they recycling, but to “think about ways to generate less waste in the first place.”
The process for developing PAYT at Yale brought together faculty, staff and students to help solve an operational challenge. A task force was convened in fall of 2017. In addition to assessing the opportunities and potential obstacles of implementing PAYT at Yale, the task force identified research projects to properly inform the pilot program; reviewed a PAYT system that exists at the Australian National University; and assessed Yale’s current waste disposal data. The results from the projects “helped to inform how PAYT would be defined and piloted at Yale,” the university says
Select campus buildings were randomly assigned to one of three treatment groups. The three treatment groups include:
- Traditional charge (three buildings) – buildings receive monthly “test bills.”
- Traditional charge plus information (three buildings) – buildings receive additional information about proper trash and recycling practices in addition to the “test bills.”
- Reputation (four residential colleges) – colleges receive monthly waste data and engage in competition to encourage positive behavior change.
Buildings were identified and selected based on availability of data and whether they share a waste collection space with other units. During the pilot, the traditional charge and traditional charge plus information treatment groups will receive monthly “test bills,” which show how much the building would be charged for the quantity of trash produced. Current protocol charges buildings based on square footage, regardless of the amount of waste produced, according to the university.
The pilot program, which will continue through April, aims to "increase awareness about best practices for waste management and streamline communications." It will also assess the amount of trash and single-stream recycling from each building.
The program supports the materials goals of the Yale Sustainability Plan 2025, which hopes to lead Yale closer to “achieve a diversion rate of 60 percent by 2024 to align with the State of Connecticut and maintain or reduce overall amount of waste produced annually since 2017.”
Results of the pilot will be released next fall.