Model Ordinance Establishing a Pay-As-You-Throw Program for Residential Municipal Solid Waste: With and Without Commentaries

Linda Breggin
Jessica Sugarman
Darby Hoover
Date Released
November 2023
cover page for model ordinance establishing a pay-as-you-throw program for residential municipal solid waste, with commentaries

Cities striving to meet zero-waste, climate, and other sustainability goals are increasingly realizing that waste reduction can be a key strategy to achieving their targets—in particular, reducing food waste, the most prevalent material in municipal waste streams. Much of municipal waste can be recycled or composted, yet only about a third of our discards actually are. Cities looking to reduce waste generation and ensure more municipal discards are recycled or composted can benefit from instituting the program outlined in this new resource from NRDC and Environmental Law Institute: Model Ordinance Establishing a Pay-As-You-Throw Program for Residential Municipal Solid Waste.

Pay-As-You-Throw (PAYT) is a municipal solid waste collection system in which households are charged in proportion to the amount of trash they generate and dispose of and at a higher rate for trash than for recyclables and compostables, which is in line with payment structures for other utilities such as water and electricity. The goals of the ordinance are to decrease landfilling and incineration of municipal solid waste in favor of source reduction, materials recycling, and organics recycling, as well as to establish a residential waste management pricing scheme that promotes transparency, efficiency, and fairness by charging households according to the amount of trash they generate.

This model ordinance is designed to help municipalities more readily adopt a local PAYT program by providing specific legal language—based on extensive best practices research—that can be used to establish program components. 

The version of the model ordinance with commentaries includes footnotes that provide background information, including examples from cities around the country, and alternative approaches that can assist municipalities in tailoring provisions to their own circumstances. There is also a clean “off the shelf” version of the model, a slide deck, and a compilation of PAYT resources that lists some of the many existing reports, toolkits, and other documents on the topic. 

For more information please contact Linda Breggin,, or Darby Hoover,