Pay As You Throw (PAYT)

PAYT and Recycling Results 2009-2014

What is Pay As You Throw?

Under a Pay As You Throw (PAYT) trash program, households are charged for refuse collection based on the amount of trash they throw away, providing a direct economic incentive for residents to reduce waste by recycling more.

How does PAYT work?

You buy City approved bags at stores where you usually shop. Our waste hauler, Pine Tree, is instructed to pick up only the specially marked PAYT trash bags.

When did PAYT go into effect?

PAYT began January 1, 2011.

Where can we buy bags?

Bags are on sale at the following Brewer businesses:

Aubuchon Hardware
Big Apple S. Main St
Big Apple Wilson St
Paradis Shop N Save
Tiller & Rye
Tozier’s Market
Brewer Public Library

How much do the bags cost? Are there different sizes?

Yes, there are 15 gallon and 33 gallon drawstring bags available.

15 gallon bags cost $1.25 each ($6.25* for a roll of 5)
33 gallon bags cost $2.00 each ($10.00* for a roll of 5)
*Not subject to sales tax. City pays the sales tax on behalf of residents.

What color are the bags?

Brewer’s official PAYT bags are orange and imprinted with the City’s logo.

Do I have to pay for recycling, too?

No. In fact, the City has significantly enhanced recycling services by increasing the frequency to biweekly pickup and greatly expanding the list of items that can be recycled. By expanding and simplifying recycling, we are offering residents a way to minimize their waste costs. Click here for information about the City’s free Zero Sort recycling program.

Do I also have to pay to have my PAYT bags picked up?

No. The City pays Pine Tree to pick up garbage in the official PAYT bags.

Can I put my PAYT bags in a trash can or other container at the curb?

Yes, you can place one or more PAYT bags in containers at the curb.

Can I put other bags in my PAYT bags?

Yes. Many residents are choosing to use smaller plastic or paper bags for garbage in their house then periodically placing these in their PAYT bag stored in the garage, shed, basement, etc. until the PAYT bag is full.

Does everyone have to purchase bags?

Everyone who receives City-provided curbside trash pickup by Pine Tree (single family homes and multifamilies of 4 units or less) has to purchase bags.

Is there be a senior discount?

No. Everyone pays the same price for the same size bags. However, those who produce less trash and/or recycle more need fewer bags and have lower cost.

What if I don’t have the proper bag?

Pine Tree will not pick up your trash unless it is in a specially marked, City approved PAYT bag.

How does the City deal with offenders?

The City regularly monitors areas that have historically had dumping issues. We take steps to identify offenders, and repeat offenders, if any, are cited in accordance with local and state law.

How many PAYT bags can we dispose of each week?

There is no limit on how many specially marked, City approved PAYT bags you may place curbside each week for pickup. The PAYT program is designed to offset the cost of trash disposal. Each resident controls how much they spend for their own trash disposal.

Do I have to put a PAYT bag out each week?

No. Some households find they can go one, two, or even more weeks before filling a PAYT bag and placing it curbside.

What if my trash item does not fit into the PAYT bag?

The only item not required to be in a PAYT bag are tires (not more than two passenger vehicle tires per household per week). If you have other non-recyclable items that do not fit into the PAYT bag, you may be able to dispose of them for a fee at the Brewer Landfill. Click here for hours of operation and a list of items the landfill will accept.

Is trash still collected weekly?

Yes, trash is picked up curbside every week. Recycling pickup is every other week.

How can I lower my trash cost?

Participating in the City’s Zero Sort recycling program is an easy and free way to lower your trash costs. Upwards of 70% of household trash can be recycled. Composting yard waste and kitchen scraps and buying items with less packaging are also effective ways to lower your disposal costs even further.

Why should I pay for garbage pickup? Isn’t this what my taxes are supposed to cover?

Not all taxpayers receive garbage services. Businesses and commercial properties, including residences of over 4 units and trailer parks, pay substantial taxes yet must contract for waste collection.

With PAYT, it becomes more equitable for residents with smaller amounts of garbage to pay for what they use, and those who reduce and recycle are rewarded with a lower trash bill. Citizens who choose not to recycle, and therefore produce more garbage, will be rewarded with a much higher cost of disposal.

The City is still providing curbside collection of garbage as well as recyclables. There are many PAYT communities, including Ellsworth, without curbside collection—residents must not only purchase PAYT bags or tags, but they also have to transport their garbage to a transfer station.

Doesn’t PAYT increase illegal dumping?

That has not been the case in Brewer. Nationwide studies have shown that most communities that start a PAYT system see little to no increase in roadside dumping. Illegal dumping exists in almost all communities, but the majority of dumped materials is not residential in origin—it is usually bulky items (e.g. furniture, construction debris, etc) that are not affected with a PAYT system. The Brewer Public Works Department works closely with the Code Enforcement Office and Police Department to identify and pursue any offenders.

Why did Brewer implement PAYT?

The City implemented PAYT to offset the increasing costs of trash disposal. PAYT allows each household to control their volume of trash disposal and the costs associated with excess disposal. PAYT also encourages recycling, which benefits everyone.

How and when did Brewer arrive at this decision to adopt PAYT?

July 1, 2010 — City implemented Zero Sort recycling and maintained once per month pickup.

January 1, 2011 — City implemented Pay As You Throw program and increased frequency of recycling collection to every other week.

Click PAYT Decision Process and Timeline of Events for further detail about the program’s origins and implementation process.

What are the goals of PAYT?

  1. To help offset some of the City’s solid waste costs.
  2. To create equitable distribution of solid waste costs rather than increasing the overall tax burden—you pay for your own trash, not your neighbor’s.
  3. To lower the amount the City pays to PERC for disposal of residential trash, and to proactively address the impending expiration of our 30 year contract with PERC, so that it does not result in undue impact to the City’s tax rate or fiscal position. A portion of the bag revenue will go into a reserve account to help smooth the transition to the significantly higher disposal costs the City will face.

Is PAYT a new idea in Maine?

No. Over 140 communities in Maine currently utilize a PAYT program. This solid waste model is prevalent in southern Maine and across the country and is becoming more common in central and northern Maine. Holden and Ellsworth have had PAYT in place for many years.

Why did you choose PAYT bags over PAYT tags or stickers?

While it is true that PAYT tags would be less expensive to produce and easier to store, experience from hundreds of communities has shown multiple advantages of using bags. Tags are easy to counterfeit; bags are not. Tags can fall off or be torn off. Believe it or not, some who are short a tag on trash day try to tape cash to their bag—easily misappropriated, as you can imagine. Bags are easy for the hauler to see and distinguish; tags much less so. Bags are more equitable because everyone is paying the same price for the same volume. Tags can be placed on varying sizes of bags. As a result, trash tonnages tend to remain higher under a tag program than a bag program. Numerous communities that started their PAYT programs with tags have since switched to bags. When Gloucester, MA switched from tags to bags, it experienced a 37% reduction in trash volume after just two weeks.

How much profit do the stores make off the bags?

The stores selling the Brewer PAYT bags are prohibited from marking up, or making a profit on the bags. The bags prices are set by the City Council and that is what the stores pay to acquire the bags for re-sale to the public.

Will my taxes go down as a result of PAYT?

The PAYT and Zero Sort recycling programs provide about $200,000 in net benefit to the City’s budget each year. This is comprised of approximately $150,000 in bag revenue and a $50,000 reduction in PERC disposal costs. Normally such a reduction in net costs would have translated into a tax rate decrease; however, in the year PAYT was implemented and in subsequent years, the City has faced decreasing revenues from the state as well as a shrinking tax base. The PAYT and Zero Sort programs have been critical in minimizing the impact of these losses on the tax rate.

How much does the City pay for trash removal?

The bag fee does not cover all of the City’s disposal costs. Before PAYT, the City spent about $700,000 per year on its solid waste programs, which included refuse collection, recycling and the operation of the Brewer Landfill. Refuse costs made up about 60% ($420k) of that total and are comprised of two primary expenses: the collection contract with Pine Tree Waste and the cost of disposal at PERC. In 2010, we spent about $170,705 and $230,000, respectively on these costs. In 2014, these costs were about $260,000 and $110,000, respectively, despite annual cost escalators and tip fee increases.

Who can I contact to get more information?

You can call the Public Works Department at 207.989.7800 or
contact Ken Locke, Director of Environmental Services,
at 207.989.5417 or