Officials, Residents Have Questions About Pay-As-You-Throw

Written by Administrator
 | Friday, 18 January 2008 07:47
Questions about cost and logistics will have to be answered before some town officials and residents fully get behind a pay-as-you-throw trash service. Questions about cost and logistics will have to be answered before some town officials and residents fully get behind a pay-as-you-throw trash service.

Earlier this month, Public Works Director Tom Daley presented an initial proposal to selectmen about how pay-as-you-throw would work and why the town should adopt it. Daley said a system combining a yearly transfer station fee with a per-bag cost could save the town between $135,000 and $243,000 a year and increase recycling.

Selectwoman Betsy Sullivan said she has received a number of emails from residents about the subject, and she said she thinks everyone realizes that increasing recycling is an important goal.

"For me, personally, I think we need to do some serious work determining what our tax bill includes and what services are provided," Sullivan said. "Should the trash system be completely self supported? No. We pay a nice tax bill and part of those services should be defrayed by that."

Residents currently pay $118 for a transfer station sticker, minus a $10 early bird mail-in discount. In his presentation to selectmen, Daley presented two possible pay-as-you-throw scenarios, both of which would include a sticker cost and an additional cost for bags.

In one scenario, the sticker would cost $120 and bags would be $1 to $1.50 depending upon size.

That scenario would completely cover the cost of operating the transfer station, which has a yearly budget of about $1 million, according to Daley. The second scenario would set the stickers at $85 and the bags once again at $1 or $1.50, depending upon the size.

Sullivan said the town needs to take a hard look at how much of the transfer station's costs should be covered by taxes already paid by residents, and how much should be covered by the sticker and bag fees.

Selectman Chairman Andre Martecchini said that for the first year of pay-as-you-throw, at least, there shouldn't be such an increase in cost that it is a disincentive to use the transfer station. Otherwise, he said, there has gotten a fairly positive response from citizens about the possibility of changing the trash service.

"In general, it seems to be that people are acknowledging the need for it," Martecchini said.

During a recent afternoon at the transfer station, the additional costs associated with a pay-as-you-throw service was a big sticking point with a number of residents who were perusing the wares at the Duxbury Mall or sorting their recycling, none of whom wanted to speak on the record.

"I hope we don't get charged double for it, that's my only problem with it," said one woman. "I think it's a good idea otherwise, and I'd probably recycle a bit more."

Someone else said the town has to do something to increase recycling.

"I'm not sure what that something is," he said. "I guess I'm almost in favor of it."

Another woman said she was in favor of incentives to increase recycling, but said she wasn't crazy about a plan that would include the not so environmentally friendly requirement to purchase double-lined plastic bags.

One woman at the recycling bins said she is totally against the pay-as-you-throw plan.

"We already pay enough and we do all of the work here," she said as she emptied glass bottles from her car. "I'll be 65 and I'm not interested in paying any more money."

She said that most people in town already recycle, and she also said the town should be trying to reduce plastic, and not forcing residents to purchase plastic bags.

Washington Street resident Steven Antonellis has also stated that he is against the pay-as-you-throw system, pointing out that residents have done an admirable job for years disposing of trash and recycling. He stated that a pay-as-you-throw system would only lead to private trash hauling trucks rumbling through the neighborhoods of Duxbury.

Town Manager Richard MacDonald noted that Daley's presentation to selectmen was strictly an informational presentation, and that there is still much information to be gathered before any kind of pay-as-you-throw system is enacted by the town.

"We will have to go before selectmen again," he said. "Tom Daley will be at a joint meeting of the Transfer Station and Fiscal Advisory committees to set fees, and then he'll be before selectmen again with a solid proposal."

The purpose of a pay-as-you-throw system is to reduce trash at the transfer station and increase recycling, MacDonald said.

"There is a financial benefit to reducing trash," MacDonald said.

Hauling trash to the SEMASS incinerator in Rochester costs $99 a ton, or about $536,000 a year, according to Daley.

In addition to weighing the financial aspects of a pay-as-you-throw system, Sullivan said, the town also has to take a look at the current recycling system at the transfer station.

"We need to really get it down to a science and make [recycling] as easy to do as possible," she said. Sullivan said Daley has done a good job with recycling at the transfer station, but that there is still some more tweaking needed to make the recycling process a smooth one for residents.

Martecchini agreed that there needs to be an improvement in the town's recycling system at the transfer station.

"Tom Daley and the DPW staff understand that and they're working on it," he said.

If Duxbury does go to a pay-as-you-throw system, it will join about 120 communities in the state that have a similar type of service.

Marshfield recently went to a curbside pay-as-you-throw system, where residents purchase trash bags, but do not necessarily have to purchase a separate transfer station sticker. Scituate's system requires residents to purchase a landfill sticker for $75, and then they must purchase bags at a cost of $10 for 10 30-gallon bags or $5 for a package of 10 15-gallon bags.

Kingston has a system similar to Duxbury's current system, where residents pay $130 for a transfer station sticker.