Columnist Donn Esmonde shouldn't knee-jerk knock an idea before he better explores the pros and cons. I'm referring to his assertion that the "Pay-As-You-Throw" charge per garbage bag for Buffalo residents would automatically "turn vacant lots into dump zones."
I do not suggest that we expediently embrace the "Pay-As-You-Throw" idea without carefully exploring potential illegal dumping or overstuffing the bags. However, in a report by the Environmental Protection Agency, "Pay-As-You-Throw: Lessons Learned About Unit Pricing," it is noted that "residents (where unit pricing is proposed) have strong reservations about unit pricing (for garbage bags), believing it will encourage illegal dumping. . . . Communities can counter this fear with an effective public-education program. Since most communities with unit pricing have reported that illegal dumping proved to be less of a concern than anticipated, providing residents with this information can help allay their concerns over illegal dumping."
In a 1995 report, "Variable Rate Pricing: A Practical Guide for Local Decision-makers" released by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, we read: "On the face of it, variable rate pricing (Pay-As-You-Throw) provides an incentive to dispose of trash on neighbors' lawns. . . . In fact, illegal dumping has almost never been reported as a serious problem with variable rate pricing."
Both the EPA and DEC reports surveyed cities as large as Seattle, with an urban population of 500,000, and Binghamton with 50,000. Yes, we must be doubly sure that we tailor any potential unit-pricing plan taking into serious consideration Buffalo's vacant lots, run-down properties or other places where people might be tempted to illegally dump.
Finally, I did not come up with the "Pay-As-You-Throw" option just now in response to public criticism of the user fee. I and other Council members proposed this idea in the spring, when we were deliberating on the city budget and discussing the user fee.
I said then as I am now that the "Pay-As-You-Throw" system might be used as a method to try to reduce the user fee by charging people only for what they throw out. As the DEC and EPA reports state, this provides a strong incentive to increase recycling and reduce the solid-waste stream, thereby cutting the cost of garbage services.
David A. Franczyk Fillmore District