Pay As You Throw Rejected by Survey Respondents

Wed, 2014-12-24

Acton Forum conducted a survey about the town's proposal to look into a "Pay As You Throw" (PAYT) system for its Transfer Station. If the town proceeds with the plan and development, it could be an issue decided at this April's Annual Town Meeting.

We featured three recent stories on this issue, two by resident Ken Henderson who opposed PAYT, and one by blogger Jim Snyder-Grant who favors the proposal. Acton Forum wanted to try doing its first survey on this issue, with the understanding that not all the details have yet been worked out. Some of the survey responses indicated some frustration with not having more specifics before asking opinions.

The FULL survey results are listed below. You can click on the PDF link for the complete survey results including all the comments made, and then there is a Word document which analyzes the results manually based on specific answers. Both documents' results should be reviewed if you want to fully understand the responses.

We got 302 responses to our survey. The first three questions were asked of all respondents.

Question Two asked in general if the respondent was in favor of Pay As You Throw. By more than a two-to-one margin, respondents were not in favor of a PAYT system for the town. 58% were not in favor, 25% were in favor, and 18% were not sure.

See the PDF file to read some of the 70 comments received.

Question Three asked if they used the Transfer Station. About 80% used the Transfer Station and those users continued onto Question Four of the survey.

Question Four asked about frequency of use. 57% of the Transfer-Station users went at least once per week, 40% went one to three times per month, and 4% went less frequently than once per month.

Question Five asked the respondents if they thought their costs would go up or down under PAYT. Many (34%) were not sure because the costs have not been released, but 47% believed their costs would go up and 18% thought they would decrease. There were 43 comments on this question.

Question Six asked if the respondents planned to continue to use the Transfer Station if PAYT were implemented. 68% of the respondents said they planned to continue to use the Transfer Station if it implemented a PAYT system and 32% did not think they would continue as customers. This question generated the most comments at 88.

We then looked at the individual responses to break down the answers based on the expected cost increase or decrease. Those respondents who weren't sure were not counted in the further analysis. This analysis was only done on those respondents who completed questions four to six.

For those who use the Transfer Station, 49 were in favor of PAYT and 155 were opposed, which is a 3-to-1 margin against PAYT.

Of those 49 who were in favor, one respondent thought their trash-disposal costs would go up and 33 thought they would decrease (the rest were not sure).

Of the 33 who expected a decrease in costs, all of them, 100%, expected to continue to use the Transfer Station if PAYT was implemented.

Of the 155 Transfer-Station users who were not in favor of PAYT, 104 thought their costs would increase and six thought they would decrease.

Of those (104) who thought their costs would increase, 49 planned to continue to use the Transfer Station and 50 planned not to use it if PAYT is implemented (the remainder were unsure or didn't answer).

Of those (6) who thought their costs would decrease, one planned to continue to use the transfer station and four did not plan to use it.

Trash survey result links

Full survey results are here (PDF):

Analysis of certain positive or negative answers are here (Word):


We've had a few articles on this topic published on Acton Forum recently. If you want to read more, see Jim Snyder-Grant's article Save Money and Reduce Trash at or Ken Henderson's articles Here we go again at and Transfer Station Feedback at

Acton Forum Publisher Allen Nitschelm did a story on curbside pickup several months ago which is available here: His story was inspired by the Beacon's article reporting on the town's interest in promoting PAYT in the upcoming budget cycle for next Town Meeting.

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From anonymous reader

Payt is NOT SMART.
Those of us using the trash dump are satisfied.
We do not wish to subsidize others.
Leave the system as it is. I have more to recycle than to dump - and I hate seeing people putting cardboard,etc in the waste area.

Allen Nitschelm has lived in Acton since 1998 and writes about fiscal issues at the
local and state level. He is a former member of the town's Finance Committee
and is an Associate Publisher of Acton Forum.