PAYT allowed to make the "final jump" towards the impressive 80% waste separate collection rate.
Citizens of Seveso have a quite high environmental consciousness which dates back to the famous chemical disaster of 1976.
The Municipality has been a pioneer in separate collection of waste since late '90s, and again in 2017 in the framework of its participation to a H2020 project ( www.waste4think.eu ) decided to introduce Pay As You Throw in order to further improve the very high baseline in terms of separate collection (75%) in order to get above 80%.
The system introduced is based on transparent bags for residual waste, with a RFID tag. Citizens get them through automatic vending machines which identify the users and give them a custom roll of bags; collection vehicles are equipped with an antenna and the invoicing system is centralized.
This system has to go along with a parallel information system (so called KAYT - Know As You Throw) that is key in order to let people be aware of their waste generation, savings, individual behaviour compared to the average.
This last concept was started in Seveso by using some of the IT tools developed by Waste4Think, but it is currently ongoing in other trials, the most relevant one being tested from late 2020 by the LIFE project www.rethinkwaste.eu .
Seveso invested about 5 € / capita/year for the implementation of the RFID automated bag delivery, measuring and invoicing.
2-3 people were dedicated to the activities of support of the municipal tax office, plus other resources related to the sensitization campaigns of the Waste4Think project.
Evidence of success
Seveso reached about 85% separate collection rate, which is impressive.
After some initial challenges, PAYT went on smoothly. The sysyem is currently being replicated in many other municipalities in Lombardy and in Italy, with a specific national Decree supporting this scheme.
Introducing PAYT when the baseline is already high is tricky. The variability between the "good guys" and the "bad guys" is limited, so the incentive effect of the variable part of the tax is actually low. Economic benefits related to more recycling were lower than the additional costs.
Potential for learning or transfer
A good guidance is needed for municipalities willing to introduce Pay As You Throw. Technology is important but there are preliminary steps not to be neglected, in order to avoid possible problems (littering etc) and unbalances that make the new supposedly "fair tax" not so fair in some cases.
Most importantly, the KAYT - Know As You Throw concept has to be introduced with PAYT, by using simple and effective individual communication tools, otherwise the risk is to spend a lot in technology forgetting how to deliver constant and positive feedback to citizens.
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