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News October 2016 Updated May 2021

Has the time for PAYT arrived?

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Mark Abbas, Chief Marketing Officer for AMCS discusses recent support for PAYT systems and whether changes in the economic, technological and social landscape mean that the time is right to start to accelerate their uptake.

The introduction of Pay As You Throw (PAYT) or Pay By Weight (PBW) in the municipal sector has been a popular topic of conversation recently with the Local Authority Recycling Advisory Committee (LARAC) Chair and many senior industry figures now openly supporting its introduction.

PBW systems offer local authorities a great opportunity to more accurately cost services, improve operational efficiency and better manage the materials for which they are responsible.  At the same time, they provide residents with an additional means of controlling their own household bills.

Their introduction however is not without its challenges.  There is still a commonly held perception that PBW is simply a ‘stealth tax’ to enable authorities to charge residents more for their service a perception that the industry has failed to fully shake off.  There are also concerns that PBW will increase fly-tipping or burning rubbish to avoid charges as occurred in rural Ireland after PBW introduction.

In the current climate, the business case for investment in this additional capability ALSO needs to be increasingly robust.  Whilst onboard systems are now highly cost-effective, they still represent a significant investment for operators.  In commercial and industrial sectors improvements in fleet efficiency and materials management coupled with increased automation and improved management information have cut the time to realizing significant return on investment. Can this become a reality in the public sector?

The market, technology and economy continue to evolve and innovate.  In recent times, we have seen a number of developments in onboard weighing technology that has made it both more practical and affordable.  The result is that systems are now available for use on most vehicle and lift types including split bin and trade lifts.

One major development is that vehicle manufacturers are now supplying vehicles with lifting gear already prepared for the installation of weighing equipment.  This dramatically reduces the costs associated with retrofitting kit to older vehicles, as no additional fabrication is required.  It also reduces the amount of time that vehicles need to be off the road, which was always a major consideration.

The technology of the weighing systems themselves has also improved.  Each lifter can now be installed with a weighing load-cell enabling two or more different household bins to be weighed independently and simultaneously. This dynamic design removes the need to stop the lifter to gain an accurate weight reading so it does not impact on a vehicle’s productivity.

Historically systems required a lot of wiring and connections as each element was individually installed.  This made fitting and calibration a time consuming and ultimately expensive business.  Modern systems have greatly improved interfaces with lifter controls cutting the number of sensors and signals required.  This makes installation easier, reduces the component costs and minimizes the potential points of failure, improving reliability.

These technological improvements mean that we have now perhaps reached a point where we should seriously consider the potential for change from a flat charging system to a fairer variable rate model. The pressure on both local authority and household budgets mean it seems sensible to address the fact that waste is really the only utility over which residents have no direct control. Heavy waste producers are profiting at the expense of more frugal, waste-conscious consumers.

This ability to offer a service whereby residents pay only for the waste they produce is not only fairer but would doubtless help incentivize a change in behaviour leading to increased availability of secondary resources and a reduction in disposal costs.

These systems also have a much broader scope of application.  The information provided by them can be used to realize significant cost savings and environmental benefits through improved operational efficiency and greatly enhance reporting capability.  Some of key benefits include:

PBW provides a win-win for both the service provider and the consumer. The economic climate means that almost without exception, municipal budgets are under pressure and waste managers are required to find ways to improve efficiency. These pressures are similarly reflected in every household budget.

Communication of the benefits of this change to better manage household waste is the key to success. Consumers need to understand how transparent systems will enable them to take greater responsibility for their own bills and act to reduce them accordingly.

We have the technology and the ROI arguments now it is down to winning the hearts and minds of the general public.

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