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Special Populations

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Some residents, including the elderly, those living on low incomes, and multilingual residents, may have difficulty fully participating in a pay-as-you-throw program. Often, solid waste planners make arrangements early in the design process to ensure that their program can fully accommodate any special populations.

In most communities, there will be a percentage of residents for whom pay-as-you-throw (PAYT) may pose particular challenges. Resident who may need assistance or special attention include low-income residents, senior citizens, transient populations (for example, students and tourists), and multilingual residents (resident for whom English is not their first language).

Low-income residents

The key for many solid waste planners is to incorporate flexibility into their program design. For example, while some residents may feel that PAYT poses a burden for those living on a low income, planners can structure their program to allow everyone to benefit. They can reduce the per-household waste collection charges for eligible residents by a set amount, offer a percentage discount, or provide a credit on the overall bill.

Photo of Discount Coupons In addition, some communities offer a predetermined number of bags or stickers free of charge to low-income residents. In municipalities with a multi-tiered system, while everyone is charged equally for bags or tags, the base service charge is reduced for low-income households. Assistance also can be offered through existing low-income programs, particularly other utility assistance efforts. These strategies allow low-income households to benefit from assistance while retaining some level of incentive to use source reduction, recycling, and composting.

Communities planning to assist residents with special needs typically develop a list of qualification criteria. Many PAYT communities find it easiest to use established standards, such as federal poverty guidelines. Other cities and towns discount per-container fees for households defined as low income under the school lunch program. Municipalities will also need to determine the cost of the assistance they plan to provide community-wide. As with all other components of PAYT, planners will need to factor the value of any assistance programs into their rate structure design. Communities also typically include enforcement in their planning to ensure that only eligible residents receive assistance targeting low-income residents or other populations.

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Senior citizens

Communities also may need to find ways of assisting senior citizens. Some elderly residents (and disabled individuals, as well) may have difficulty moving trash containers to the curb. To deal with this, communities may wish to consider offering backyard collection services-for free or at a reduced rate for elderly or disabled residents on a fixed income.

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Diverse populations

In diverse communities, planners typically take steps to ensure that all residents fully understand the proposed PAYT program. Often, this entails a carefully designed multilingual education and outreach effort. Having customer service staff fluent in the required languages also can help to increase participation and compliance.

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Transient populations

Other communities have a high percentage of students, tourists, or other transient populations. Planners may need to work with rental property owners and real-estate offices, travel outlets, or other organizations to provide short-term residents with the information they need to participate in PAYT.

Determining and enforcing eligibility criteria for special services can sometimes increase staffing needs, especially for trained customer service representatives. Special applications may need to be devised and the staff trained to review cases. Procedures also need to be established and the staff trained for resolving any disputes or complaints that could arise during program implementation.

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Additional resources

For answers to questions about accommodating residents who have special needs in your PAYT program, visit special populations in the Frequent Questions section of the Web site.

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