The Future of Waste part I: What is PAYT and how does it work?

   Chris Williams


ISB Global’s Future of Waste Series: Part 1 – What is PAYT and how does it work?

As waste becomes an increasingly critical problem for the world, governments, environmentalists and waste management experts are looking for the most effective way to encourage people to reduce waste in their everyday lives.

One of the most popular – and successful – ways to do this is by introducing a Pay As You Throw (PAYT) scheme. At its most basic, this is where individual households pay for their waste containers – whether these are bags, boxes or wheelie bins.

These containers are individually marked with a unique tag, which is registered to the owner, and defines the type of waste designated for each.

Collection vehicles have readers that can read the tags – these are usually RFID or NFC readers. They also have cameras and onboard weighing, so that each waste container is automatically registered as it is collected or emptied.

This creates a charge for the household, based on the type and weight of the waste.

All sounds simple, doesn’t it?

Why we need PAYT

Everyone is agreed that we need to reduce waste. The way we produce and treat waste has an impact on the climate crisis both in developed and developing countries – where much of our waste ends up, even if we don’t realise it.

Many countries are looking into the best ways to manage this problem. A growing population means growing amounts of waste. And yet we are living on a planet with finite resources – so we are going to have to think seriously about adopting a circular economy.

According to the Ellen McArthur Foundation, the circular economy is:

… a system where materials never become waste and nature is regenerated. In a circular economy, products and materials are kept in circulation through processes like maintenance, reuse, refurbishment, remanufacture, recycling, and composting. The circular economy tackles climate change and other global challenges, like biodiversity loss, waste, and pollution, by decoupling economic activity from the consumption of finite resources.”

A critical part of a successful circular economy is reducing waste. And, as we know from other behaviour-changing campaigns, it often takes legislation to encourage people to change the way they do things.

PAYT is part of this. By introducing a charge for the waste we throw away – and perhaps a rebate for the waste we reuse or recycle – PAYT provides a clear incentive for people to think differently about the waste they generate.

And it doesn’t stop at throwing things away. If you know you are going to be charged for your waste, you’ll start shopping differently, and demand that producers change their packaging or deliberately make their products easier to reuse or recycle. The end goal is where we buy less, buy better, and have a more sustainable way of managing the products we use.

Who is using PAYT?

PAYT schemes are in operation around the world, and other countries are learning important lessons from these, as they consider how and when to introduce them in their own areas.

For example, PAYT schemes were originally based on volume, but these have been shown to be less effective in preventing waste being generated. Instead, successful schemes rely on weight, which is a fairer way to manage the operation.

Highly successful PAYT schemes are in operation in South Korea, various towns and states across the USA, and also in areas in several European countries, including Belgium, the Netherlands, Sweden and Austria.

In Part Two of our PAYT series, we’ll look at how these schemes are working today, and how other countries can use these models to introduce their own schemes.

To learn more, contact the team today or alternatively request access to the Interactive Showcase of our Software below:

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