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Municipalities must be sure they have the legal authority to implement and enforce all aspects of their pay-as-you-throw program, from charging for trash collection to enforcing penalties for non-compliance. If authority is lacking in any key areas, ordinances can be passed to ensure that the program rests on a firm legal foundation.

Before the final decision is made to pursue pay-as-you-throw (PAYT), basic legal and jurisdictional issues need to be addressed. Generally, states extend to local jurisdictions the authority to provide waste management services and to charge residents accordingly. During the planning process, however, solid waste planners often research their legal authority for implementing a variable-rate pricing mechanism, rather than risk discovering a problem unexpectedly during implementation.

To implement a PAYT program, a solid waste agency typically needs the authority to:

needs alt disc. If a community lacks the authority to implement and enforce participation in any portion of their proposed PAYT program, the first step should be to draft the necessary ordinances in consultation with the municipality's legal counsel. While communities often find it helpful to review ordinances from other cities and towns with PAYT, the particular language typically needs to be customized to fit local circumstances.

In some communities, passing these ordinances requires building consensus ahead of time among key stakeholders, including elected officials, haulers, and residents. Elected officials will likely pass ordinances only if they understand PAYT and feel that residents also understand and accept the new program. As part of the consensus-building process, planners should carefully evaluate and update their ordinances against illegal diversion activities and their commitment to enforce them. Informing residents of these legal measures through a comprehensive public education and outreach program, and providing alternative disposal options such as recycling and composting, will help convince residents that PAYT will be a benefit to the community.

Some jurisdictions also take this opportunity to pass ordinances relating to hauler contracts. For example, a city served by haulers of varying sizes might decide to create a more level playing field by requiring haulers to buy a franchise from the city. While such a measure should incorporate as much flexibility as possible, the intention is to ensure that everyone is working under the same terms and conditions.

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