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Rehoboth Beach considers a "pay as you throw" system for trash

Rehoboth Beach is considering a new fee policy for trash never before used in the First State. Commissioners are seeking to address equity concerns.

Many communities around the country, and the world, implement “pay as you throw” programs for trash collection, where residents essentially pay more for pickup the more trash they produce.

But no large Delaware cities have this system implemented, according to commissioner Patrick Gossett. The Delaware Solid Waste Authority does use such a system at its collection stations around the state, but no residential services operate this way.

Rehoboth Beach Mayor Stan Mills says a system like this in Delaware could help solve equity issues.

“If what we’re trying to achieve is, the more you put out, the more you pay — then I think that is equitable throughout the spectrum,” says Mills. “Whether it’s full timers, part-timers, or the rental population.”

Commissioner Susan Gay has been particuarly adamant about ensuring equity, saying it’s unfair rental properties and full time residents pay the same flat rate when rentars may produce much more trash.

Mills says this could solve that issue, and even ensure renters who don’t produce much waste are paying their fair share.

Rehoboth Beach resident Carolyn Diefenderfer says an analysis of how this approach affects other parts of the city’s waste management is needed.

“If you start charging people more for — or charging them differently for trash and they wanna pay a little for trash then they might start putting more in the recyclable bin that’s not recyclable,” Diefenderfer says.

Commissioners say Rehoboth is already seeing an increase in contaminated recycling, and they are considering making the recycling program, and accompanying fee, mandatory for residents.

Commissioner Jay Lagree says he’s interested in “pay as you throw” to help address equity issues, but adds the city needs to take into account Rehoboth’s tourist-based community when looking at implementation.

Lagree notes programs in other states that use special stickers or bags purchased from the city could be impractical for rental property owners and summertime renters.

Commissioners agreed to study implementing this approach, and its potential impacts on other parts of the system.

Roman Battaglia is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.

Roman Battaglia grew up in Portland, Ore, and now reports for Delaware Public Media as a Report For America corps member. He focuses on politics, elections and legislation activity at the local, county and state levels.
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