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State Urges Pay-By-Bag Garbage Collection System

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RALEIGH, N.C. — The dilemma of what to do with their trash plagues a lot of communities.

Shrinking landfill space and "not-in-my-backyard" protests over new landfills are two common hurdles town and county leaders face when discussing their trash troubles.

Now, a new idea is slowly rising out of all those garbage piles -- paying by the bag.

The way most people get rid of trash is by taking it to the curb for garbage crews to pick up. But, what if there was a different approach?

"Charge residents or system users by the volume, or the weight of garbage they want to throw away," said Jim Hickman, of the North Carolina Department of Environment.

It is called "Pay As You Throw."

"What they would do is probably have different container sizes," Hickman said. "You may have a 30-gallon container, 64-gallon container, 96 gallon, and a resident would pay a variable amount based on how much trash they think they'll have."

Twenty-three North Carolina communities, none in the Triangle, have switched from the old way to "pay as you throw." It has been debated and rejected in both Chatham County and Holly Springs.

"Pay as you throw" would be a big change. Local governments cannot all agree on it. And in the neighborhoods, even some households don't agree.

"I really like the system like it is," homeowner Dot Rawley said. "The people are wonderful. They come and collect our trash. I like just the fact that we're paying taxes for it and that everybody pays that way."

Said Frank Rawley: "It sounds like a good idea. I don't know how much time and effort it would take.

"I have no objection to them changing," Frank Rawley said. "We probably would not have too much more trash than we have had in the past."

The problem on the local government level is that "pay as you throw" is too much like "pay as you go."

"It's very difficult for elected officials to go to their citizens and say: 'Although you don't know it, we are actually paying for this, and we want you to pay every time or every month.'"

"Pay as you throw" is intended to increase recycling and decrease pressure on landfills. But, those landfills appear to be filling up faster than the new idea is catching on.

Alamance County is the closest area to the Triangle that has some "pay-as-you-throw" programs.