Monitoring and Evaluation
- Implementation Timeline
- Administration and Staffing
- Container Options
- Consensus Building (Gaining Public and Political Support)
- Education and Outreach
- Goal Setting
- Illegal Diversion (Dumping, Burning)
- Legal Issues (Ordinances)
- Monitoring and Evaluation
- Apartment/Multi-Family Housing
- Pilot Programs
- Pricing Systems
- Rate Structure Design
- Recycling and Other Complementary Programs
- Scheduling Issues
- Special Populations
- Volume- vs. Weight-Based Programs
To better understand the impact of a pay-as-you-throw program, it is important to include a plan for monitoring and evaluation. Changes in waste generation amounts, the balance between costs and revenues, and other indicators can be closely tracked to gauge how well the new program is working.
Carefully monitoring and evaluating any solid waste management program is important. As waste management has become more challenging in recent years-driven by such factors as growing disposal costs, tightening municipal budgets, and rising waste generation-local solid waste planners increasingly need to be able to show results. This is particularly true when a new program like pay-as-you-throw (PAYT) is implemented. Planners often report that they can better support the continued use of PAYT when they have gathered convincing data.
Planners usually embark on a process of monitoring and evaluation to help them:
- Provide figures on the impact of PAYT, including reductions in trash
and increases in recycling or yard waste diversion.
- Justify future budget requests by demonstrating the return on the
- Reassure bond rating agencies of the cost effectiveness of PAYT, thereby
reducing the cost of future bond sales to finance municipal projects.
- Generate accurate and concrete information that can help other communities considering PAYT.
Monitoring and evaluating the new program also can help planners adjust the new program to unforeseen circumstances, ensuring that the effort expended on planning, design, and implementation is not wasted.
Communities typically schedule program monitoring and evaluation to begin around 6 months before startup. One of the first steps is to collect data on the existing solid waste program. After gathering baseline data, communities typically continue to track these same indicators following program implementation. While the exact types of information gathered by a municipality will vary, most track:
- Waste disposal, recycling, and composting amounts. Communities
often begin by collecting data on the amount of waste disposed of, recycled,
and composted before and after program implementation. The extent of
this data-gathering effort varies by community. In some cases, communities
pursue data from several different sources. For example, planners may
track waste amounts reported by both collection services and disposal
- Costs incurred. Careful cost tracking is essential. At a minimum,
most communities monitor tipping fees and other disposal costs before
and after they start up the program. Many also track collection and
operations costs, such as vehicle maintenance, labor, and equipment
depreciation. Administrative costs, including public outreach and education,
billing and invoicing, and additional customer service staff, also are
- Revenues received. Collecting data on revenues from PAYT is
also very important. Communities typically track revenues by type of
program generating the funds (for example, sale of bags or recycling
In communities serviced by private haulers, requests for this information may need to be included in their contracts or in the franchise or licence agreements. In addition, some communities collect data on other program indicators. For example, some track the number of program participants, the service and subscription levels (if a variable-can program is used), inventories of bags, tags, or stickers held by distributors or manufacturers (if a bag-, tag-, or sticker-based program is used), or the weight of containers set out. Some municipalities also estimate the amount of material illegally dumped and the number of enforcement actions taken.
Once such data are available, communities usually develop and analyze reports monthly or quarterly. Some communities with access to trained staff and computer support conduct detailed analyses. In particular, planners can focus closely on the extent to which costs and revenues meet the projections established during the rate structure design process. Others focus on comparing data in a few key areas. For example, planners might pay particular attention to changes in waste generation rates and recycling amounts before and after program implementation.
Such an analysis may help point out areas in which a PAYT program can be improved. For example, if recycling rates level off sooner than anticipated, communities might increase the range of materials accepted. If changes are necessary, information about the improvement will need to be prepared and distributed through additional education and outreach. Most communities view monitoring and evaluation as an ongoing process. Periodically analyzing the program helps them understand its impact and make any needed improvements.
In addition, communities often recommend avoiding possible program evaluation pitfalls. For example, many planners pay attention to factors beyond just overall waste reduction when evaluating their programs. Intangible issues, such as greater support for PAYT among special populations due to successful education and outreach, would not be reflected in an analysis that focused solely on waste reduction numbers.
For help in monitoring waste generation and the amount of material recycled and composted, consult the worksheet on monitoring and evaluation (Worksheet 7 in the set of seven worksheets PDF file) (21 pp, 331K, about PDF) in the Pay-As-You-Throw Tool Kit.
For answers to questions about evaluating the success of PAYT programs, visit monitoring and evaluation in the Frequent Questions section of this Web site.