Finance Committee To Examine Costs Of Pay-As-You-Throw

Trash disposal, as Barnstable residents know it, may never be the same again.

A process began this week that could change the way town residents dispose of their household garbage.

Those who do not recycle, which is estimated to be more than 60 percent of the town’s residents, will be encouraged to start or else pay more for disposal.

The town of Barnstable has among the lowest rates of recycling in the state and that means higher disposal costs for the town and for residents.

In 2015, the town’s disposal contract with the regional waste-to-energy facility, SEMASS in Rochester, will need to be renewed and the rates are expected to increase substantially, at least double, according to the town’s energy coordinator, Richard Elrick.

The town’s Renewable Energy Committee agreed this week to analyze two new ways of dealing with trash to determine how much they would cost.

The committee was tasked by the town council to look into the matter as a way to save the town money and energy and to meet the state’s requirements for recycling.

A subcommittee of the town’s Comprehensive Financial Advisory Committee has been standing ready to crunch the numbers on the new trash disposal options.

Once the financials are assessed, the Renewable Energy Committee will formulate recommendations to forward to the Barnstable Town Council.

A workshop session where the three committees meet on the issue is expected to happen later this winter.

The first option that will be assessed financially is townwide curbside trash and recycling pickup with a pay-as-you-throw component.

Pay-As-You-Throw is a system under which people pay more if they dispose of more trash than each household is allotted.

Some communities distribute special bags or barrels for the trash as a way of gauging the amount of trash.

The Town of Sandwich, which started pay-as-you-throw last summer, is the first on the Cape to implement that system.

The pick up could be handled by one private company, more than one private company or by the town itself.

The financial analysis may also include dividing the town into districts for trash pickup, where each district could be handled by a different company.

The committee discussed the possibility of giving local companies a preference in the request for proposals process.

The second option is for a pay-as-you-throw system at the town transfer station and/or combined with the curbside pickup in the first option.

Mr. Elrick said he believes having curbside pickup combined with pay-as-you-throw has many advantages for town residents.

He listed convenience, cost savings, and fewer trucks on the road as a few advantages.

He said the system would save money for people now using private haulers, which cost approximately $400 per year, though it would cost more money for those using the transfer station. This year's cost for an annual dump sticker is $140.

But Mr. Elrick said that with increased disposal fees at SEMASS, the town’s dump sticker fee will need to increase substantially as well.

According to figures from the town’s Department of Public Works, about one-third of town residents use the transfer station and the other two-thirds hire a private hauler to pick up their trash.

One change the renewable energy committee voted to support at a meeting last year is to require private trash haulers operating in town to have bundled pricing, in which one price includes both trash and recycling pickup.

At the renewable energy committee’s meeting last month, two trash haulers who attended said they have very few customers in the town of Barnstable who recycle, only around 10 percent out of about 800 accounts apiece.

One hauler said that his seasonal customers are much better recyclers than his local customers.

One of the haulers said he already bundles the price and his customers still do not recycle.

Another said he charged more for the recycling service and people do not want to pay extra.

Of the 351 cities and towns in the commonwealth of Massachusetts, 53 communities have curbside pickup with the pay-as-you-throw component and 81 communities allow residents to drop off trash at a transfer station with the pay-as-you-throw component.

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