What 'PAYT' means for Grand Rapids trash customers

Signups started this week for a new trash-collection service that city administrators hope will cut costs by 40 percent. Grand Rapids is in the process of scrapping its existing bag-and-tag trash program in favor of a "pay as you throw" cart-based system.

The first batch of "PAYT" carts is scheduled for delivery starting Sept. 4. City residents can get one then if they sign up by Aug. 24.

“There’s no one day (the new service) starts,” City Manager Greg Sundstrom said. “It’s when you get your cart. We will start delivering carts next month.”

City residents can sign up for a cart online, by calling 456-3232 or by using a Smartphone to scan the QR code on page 4 of the Fall 2012 edition of the new We Are GR publication.

To receive a cart, customers must make an upfront payment of at least $12 to buy credit for future pickups. The “pay as you throw” program will debit customer accounts each time the cart is put curbside: $2 for a 32-gallon cart, $4 for a 64-gallon cart and $6 for a 96-gallon cart.

There’s a frequently-asked-questions section on the city’s account registration page. Here are Sundstrom’s answers to some MLive questions about the program:

  • The current collection system, in which most customers buy garbage bags and tags in advance and place them curbside, also is 'pay as you throw.' So how is this new program different

    “We are taking the best of our current system and we’re moving toward the future,” Sundstrom said. “The future of trash collection is using carts. That’s all the private sector uses. It’s more efficient. It’s all mechanized.  "This is the American way. I’m giving my employees the best chance to compete because they’re going to have the same equipment the private sector has.”
  • Why is the city even in the trash business

    “We collect not only from paying customers, but we also collect from customers who can demonstrate that they are low-income and then we collect it at no charge,” said Sundstrom, noting that about one-fourth of customers get free service. “The private sector does not offer that service to collect at no charge. Unless we want trash just filling up our alleys, the city’s going to be in the trash collection business.”
  • Why did the new cart system not start in July, as previously planned

    Sundstrom said there were delays in purchasing software for the new program, and installation of mechanical arms on the city's garbage trucks also has taken longer than expected.  “We will not have all of our trucks equipped on day one,” he said. “We hope to have all of them equipped on Jan. 1. We will still be getting out of trucks and tipping carts by wheeling them up to the truck (on some trucks for a few months).”

Read the original article online here.