Commission Recommends ‘Pay As You Throw’ Trash Disposal
By: James Kinsella
The Barnstable Renewable Energy Commission last night recommended to the Barnstable Town Council that the town adopt a “pay as you throw” approach to waste disposal.
Under “pay as you throw,” residents would be charged more for throwing out more trash, and less for throwing out less.
In a presentation to the council, the commission recommended implementing “pay as you throw” through curbside collection of trash and recyclables, and also to continue residential use of the transfer station in Marstons Mills.
The commission believes that the approach will reduce waste disposal costs to residents and increase recycling in the town.
After raising a number of questions and making a number of comments about the proposal, the town council took the matter under advisement.
In other action last night, the council unanimously approved the hiring of Barbara A. Ford as its administrator.
Ms. Ford, the acting town council administrator for the last 18 months, will be paid about $70,000 a year.
The council also approved the acceptance of three state and federal grants to help fund operations at the Barnstable Police Department.
Richard Elrick, the town’s energy coordinator, handled the waste disposal presentation on behalf of the energy commission.
The commission had been charged by the town council with reviewing and analyzing solid waste program options for the town, including recycling.
The commission reviewed four options: maintaining the current system, in which residents who do not contract with private haulers can dispose of as much trash as they wish for a flat fee at the transfer station; closing the transfer station and requiring residents to find private haulers; instituting “pay as you throw” just at the transfer station; or establishing “pay as you throw” both through curbside pickup and at the transfer station.
Mr. Elrick said the commission dismissed the first two options.
The commission set aside the first option because the town contract with Covanta/SEMASS, which accepts the town’s solid waste for its trash-to-energy facility in Rochester, will expire at the end of 2014.
Mr. Elrick said the new tipping fee likely will be more than double the current rate, leading to higher costs for the town and its residents.
That scenario gives the town an incentive to reduce the amount of waste it sends to Covanta/SEMASS.
The commission saw the second option, closing the transfer station, as not addressing the cost issue and as counterproductive to recycling.
Instituting “pay as you throw” just at the transfer station, the commission found, would have no effect on the amount of trash generated by two-thirds of the town residents, given that they rely on private haulers.
Implementing a “pay as you throw” curbside pickup program for solid waste and recyclables, the commission said, would reduce trash disposal costs, since residents would recycle more as a way to hold down their trash expenses.
Under that scenario, the commission recommends that the transfer station remain open for bulky items, construction and demolition material and yard waste, and for residents who cannot or will not use the curbside pickup.
Other communities in Massachusetts that have adopted “pay as you throw” have set up the program in varying ways.
In general, the program involves charging an annual flat fee to cover fixed costs.
Residents would purchase program bags, or program stickers to be placed on bags, for their trash. Private haulers would be required to offer curbside pickup of trash and recyclables at a bundled cost.
The commission recommends that the town establish three sectors based on population density for curbside pickup.
Mr. Elrick called the commission’s recommendation “a very meritorious and effective way to proceed.”
Town councilors raised a number of questions about the proposal, and also made a number of comments.
Helping answer questions about the proposal was Paul Tilton, the engineer and director of public works for the Town of Sandwich, which adopted “pay as you throw” last year.
Mr. Tilton said Sandwich employs the “pay as you throw” system just at its transfer station, which is used by two-thirds of Sandwich residents.
The town requires private haulers to use a regional trash transfer station.
Transfer station users pay an annual sticker fee, which has been cut in half.
They can purchase program bags at about 12 to 14 stores and outlets in town, or at the transfer station.
In response to a question from town councilor June M. Daley of Marstons Mills, Mr. Tilton said residents do not face a weekly limit on the amount of trash they dispose.
Town councilor Thomas Rugo of Centerville asked about the potential financial impact of “pay as you throw” on town of Barnstable residents.
Mr. Elrick replied that private haulers in the town charge between $525 and $685 a year for trash disposal and recycling.
He said residents in other towns that have adopted “pay as you throw” are paying much less, giving annual cost examples such as $180 or $275.
Town councilor James H. Cote of Osterville asked if communities that have adopted “pay as you throw” have seen an increase in illegal dumping.
Mr. Elrick replied they had not.
Town councilor John T. Norman of Marstons Mills said his household’s trash disposal costs would increase sharply under the program because he brings multiple bags to the transfer station twice a week.
Mr. Norman said many residents do not have the time for recycling.
Town councilor Michael P. Hersey of Hyannis said he would vote against the program if residents of Hyannis are charged a higher price to participate in the program than other residents in town, such as those who live closer to the transfer station.
Expressing concern about the potential effect of the proposal on private haulers in the town were town councilors Debra S. Dagwan and Jennifer L. Cullum of Hyannis.
Ms. Dagwan noted that the haulers started out as the original recyclers of scrap material in the town.
Town councilor Jessica Rapp Grassetti of Cotuit questioned the aesthetic impact of curbside pickup.
“People do not want to see their roads littered with trash barrels,” Ms. Rapp Grassetti said.
In response, Mr. Elrick said two-thirds of the town’s residents already are using curbside pickup.
Councilor Rugo welcomed the commission’s proposal.“The town of Barnstable has been way, way, way behind the eight ball” when it comes to recycling, he said.
The commission provided the council with information that Barnstable has the lowest recycling rate on Cape Cod: 16 percent in 2008, according to an analysis by the state Department of Environmental Protection.
Town council president Frederick Chirigotis thanked the commission for its work and the presentation.
“We need time to absorb this,” he said.
Also at last night’s council meeting:
—The council voted unanimously to approve a contract and the execution of that contract with Barbara A. Ford as the council administrator.
Ms. Ford has been serving as the acting town council administrator following the resignation last year of the former administrator, Donald Grissom.
The town will pay Ms. Ford about $70,000 a year. Mr. Chirigotis said
Mr. Grissom was making about $64,000 a year when he resigned.
After the meeting, Ms. Ford said she was very pleased to be chosen by the councilors for the position.
“I worked hard,” she said. “It’s a pleasure to work for them. I look forward to working with the council and achieving the goals they set” for the current fiscal year.
—The council voted unanimously to accept three grants for the police department.
The grants are $177,282 from the state Executive Office of Public Safety and Security to help fund emergency dispatch operations at the department; $31,602 from the United States Department of Justice to expand mobile Internet connectivity for cruisers and to provide backup for the department’s computer system; and $14,000 in a matching grant from the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency to replace obsolete handheld radios for use in emergencies.
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