Although a proposal to institute pay-as-you-throw (PAYT) charges for solid waste failed to pass muster in Bar Harbor, this does not mean residents accept the status quo when it comes to handling the town’s trash. During the PAYT debate, several associated proposals that surfaced merit additional investigation.
Residents seemed very interested in having more recycling opportunities. A return to a system of stickers on vehicles, identifying those permitted to dispose of trash at the town’s transfer station, also was suggested.
The idea of instituting an additional fee for disposal of waste generated by commercial establishments also was discussed. For some, the possibility of new fees on commercial haulers that do not pay to use the town’s transfer station seemed an attractive revenue source. However, haulers are only middlemen handling transport of trash from residents and businesses that already have paid a share of the town’s waste disposal costs through property taxes. Transporters earn their money entirely by providing a service, not by the disposal of trash. Arbitrarily requiring them to pay an unloading fee seems grossly unfair, and only would be passed on to their customers in increased charges.
There is one narrow circumstance, however, that might be worth exploring: some kind of system to encourage the town’s biggest commercial trash producers to generate less.
Although some firms sort recyclables and do everything possible to reduce their volume of waste, because it is the right thing to do, many do not. Appealing to the altruistic nature of individuals may produce positive results, but businesses often are more motivated by the bottom line.
Perhaps the town might explore a system offering financial incentive, in effect a rebate, where revenue from that material’s sale might be shared with large-volume recyclers.
While not all recycled material is marketable, cardboard for example is in demand.
With more than 100 establishments licensed to serve food, composting of those wastes, or use as animal feed, also should be considered.
No system of additional charges for commercial accounts, however, should be put forward unless there is a clear and obvious path to help businesses reduce disposal expense.
Last week, the Town Council agreed to organize a solid waste task force to keep the conversation going. Rather than revise some form of the unpopular PAYT, other alternatives need to be explored.