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Pilot Programs

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After carefully designing a pay-as-you-throw program for their community, many solid waste planners have benefited from implementing pilot programs. Testing pay-as-you-throw in limited areas can help planners to fine-tune its design, easing implementation of the final program in the entire community.

Pay-as-you-throw (PAYT) involves many important decisions regarding program services and administration. Before finalizing the design of critical program components, some communities have opted to test them out by launching pilot programs in a few neighborhoods. Running the program in a small geographic area, closely monitoring the results, and incorporating any lessons learned has helped planners to test decisions about:

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Planners may, for example, test various container prices in different sections of the community. This can help them to gauge how different rates affect operational performance, acceptance by residents, and cost-effectiveness. Pilot programs also can help planners to evaluate complementary programs and decide what level of service will translate into the greatest participation.

Pilot programs can help communities learn more about the suitability of different waste collection options. Ironing out important details ahead of time—including where and when trash is collected, the most appropriate container types, proper weight limitations, and servicing special populations—can result in smoother operations for the final program. This often can help work out difficulties early in the process, when making modifications is still relatively easy.

Aerial View of city Pilot programs also can help planners try out different public education and outreach strategies. Communities can disseminate information to pilot program neighborhoods in a variety of ways (depending upon the targeted audience), from including inserts in utility bills to producing a quarterly newsletter. The results can be closely tracked to gauge the effectiveness of the different products. For communities with a multilingual population, testing outreach materials in different languages can help determine how well they are received by their intended audiences. Test-marketing various educational tools and approaches allows communities to make the best use of limited outreach resources.

Pilot programs also can play another role: by showing how PAYT works in practice, they can help planners to earn greater resident support for the new system. Residents in pilot program neighborhoods often learn how easy it can be to take advantage of the waste reduction incentive and save money. Once they have experienced the program first-hand, these residents may help to inform others of the benefits of PAYT. In addition, increasing understanding and support at the outset means fewer enforcement problems in the future.

Pilot programs may not be suitable for all communities, however. Planners may decide that they are more likely to succeed if they build consensus for the program and then implement it fully once they determine they have generated sufficient public and political support. In addition, planners using a pilot program will need to ensure that the design of the initial project will let them thoroughly test PAYT in their community. Only a carefully arranged test will produce meaningful results that can be applied when the final program is rolled out.

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