Talkin’ trash

First of all, so Mary Ann doesn’t feel singled out, let’s set the mood here.


Irene Congdon of the Department of Environmental Protection and members of the Recycling Committee dropped in on Selectmen to talk about the upcoming pay as you throw program, which we’ll affectionately call PAYT from here on out. Our acting town administrator’s budget depends on PAYT starting in July — PAYT is expected to save the town an estimated $90,000 between revenues from bag sales and increased recycling.

How much are these bags going to cost? It will run you 75 cents each for a large kitchen garbage bag, $1.50 for a 33 gallon trash bag.

Recycling, of course, remains free, so the more you recycle — all that junk mail, the papers sent home from school, bottles, cans, plastics — the less bags you use and the more money you end up saving.

PAYT was considered to be a more equitable option, since the households that generate the most trash will be the ones paying more. Bags should be available for sale in June at least four weeks before the program starts. If it’s anything like Northborough’s program, those bags should be sold at Stop & Shop and other retailers as well as at the Municipal Building since the idea isn’t to make it as inconvenient as possible.

A public hearing on the program should take place in April and the committee plans outreach around town. Since a good portion of the town has switched to Verizon and doesn’t receive the local channels yet (no one seems to know when that will be fixed), it was suggested that they try to put a video up on YouTube as well as local access programming.

Around Central Mass:

  • Worcester cut its trash in half using PAYT
  • North Brookfield reduced waste by 20 percent and increased recycling by 4 percent
  • Lunenburg saved $100,000 in the first year
  • Ayer saw a 53 percent waste reduction in the first few months
  • Northborough reduced waste by 35 percent in the first three months, a savings of $75,000

A bit more on PAYT: payt20proposal


24 thoughts on “Talkin’ trash

  1. No. That was asked at Selectmen. They could have a non-binding vote, but there’s really no advantage to that.

    Here’s a question I’ll throw out there: will your trash still be picked up if you don’t use PAYT bags? It doesn’t seem to be addressed in any of the information I have. Is this voluntary or mandatory?

  2. If the town goes to PAYT ,then in order for your trash to be picked up by Central Mass Disposal, you must purchase the bags & put your trash in the bags.

    I believe you can “opt out” of the program but good luck finding a trash company to pick up your trash for less than what you would pay in bag fees!!


  3. Actually MO3, once payt is established, it’s probably better for the town if we recycle less because more yellow bags=more cash for the town.

  4. Several years ago, I lived in another town where they instituted PAYT. There were a few annoyances that I hope aren’t repeated here:

    At first, I had a lot of trouble finding the bags at the local grocery stores. They were often out of stock early in the program. It’s no fun to visit 3 different stores the night before trash day so you can get extra bags. Also, for some reason, the bags were kept hidden under the counter at the registers, rather than in the aisles with the rest of the bags (so you could never tell if they were in stock without asking the cashier). The justification for this was “people might steal them if we leave them out.” (Isn’t that true for everything in the store, though?)

    Second, the bags started out with decent quality, but after a short time, these were changed to the thinnest, cheapest bags I have ever seen. These would often split open, so I had to buy regular bags to actually hold the trash within the PAYT bags. You will have to buy the official bags, so I guess there is no financial motivation to provide a decent quality product.

    These are minor annoyances, but I was happy when I moved to Grafton and found out that I wouldn’t have to bother with those stupid bags any more. I guess that is coming to an end, whether I like it or not. In the end, it is really just another “creative” way to add additional taxes. If they really want to encourage recycling, why not pick it up every week, instead of every other week?

  5. Not sure if I follow.

    The town trash contract is made up of 2 components. The first is a flat fee we pay to Central Mass Disposal just to run the trucks. So whether the trash guys pick up 1 bag or a million bags, that payment would stay the same. This costs the town about $500k.

    The other component is the tipping fee. After completing their routes, the trash trucks drive to Wheelabrator in Auburn & empty out. Before doing so, each truck is weighed. Our town is charged $69/ton of trash dumped at Wheelabrator.

    Recycling, which is picked up every other week & brought to Casella in Auburn, is essentially FREE. It is included in the price of our contract.

    Another note: the money raised from the sale of the bags must be put into an enterprise fund. Simply put, that money can only go to offset the cost of trash in our town. It can’t be used to pay for other budget items.

    So…it’s never a good idea to recycle less!

    Recycle, recycle, recycle. From an environmental standpoint, it’s always good. And until we operate under PAYT, the savings will go right to the town’s bottom line!

  6. Ack, no Michael, it’s not better to just buy the bags and not recycle. I believe part of the cost for trash hauling is determined by the tonnage — if they’re hauling less, we get charged less!

    There’s also been discussion about upping recycling pickup, should recycling increase to the extent that people are getting crowded out of their garages by their recyclables.

    Another Northborough thing — we had a Junque Day once a year at the middle school. People would bring their still-usable things — kids toys, furniture, other odds and ends that were too big to be just thrown away — and you could swap stuff. I think there was a Dumpster for stuff that wasn’t hauled away by the end of the day.

  7. “Another note: the money raised from the sale of the bags must be put into an enterprise fund. Simply put, that money can only go to offset the cost of trash in our town. It can’t be used to pay for other budget items.”

    …I see!

  8. Just to be sure I understand – I can throw out as many bags as I want as long as my trash is contained within these specific bags?

    There is no additional charge to recycle – and I do not have to sort my recyclables either – I just toss them into one of the recycling containers…

    It’s that easy? Really? There has to be a catch of some sort?? …

  9. Nope, it’s THAT easy! You would have to pay for an additional town-emblazoned green recycling bin, should you want one, but you don’t even have to use them — you can just stick a recycling sticker on the side of any bin you have on hand (for example, one of those giant Rubbermaid tubs that everyone has) and voila! Instant recycling bin.

  10. This PAYT as you call it is a truly disgusting idea. It is quite simply a large tax increase. Nothing more. The average family will have to pay at least $300 a year more for this fiasco. People will separate their trash into identifiable and non identifiable. The non identifiable will be dropped on the roadside. This town needs to smarten up and remove the 4 jerky members of the board of selectmen.

    This is a cute governmental play that turns a tax increase into a fee that’s not subject to voter approval or Prop 2 1/2 limits. As a taxpayer I am truly outraged! Get ready. It’s just the beginning of pay and pay and pay.

    This program may save the “Town” $90,000 but it will cost the town’s residents far more than $90,000. It is a lie to call this program a saving. Smarten up!

  11. You know what would be helpful? If someone could sell (or give out – but I thought you had to pay for them)the recycling stickers at someplace like Stop and Shop over the weekend. It is really hard for people who are out of town working all week to go over to town hall and pick up recycling stickers, bins and bags.

  12. I’d bet the following would work just as well:

    Google “recycling logo” as an image search.
    Print out an image.
    Stick it on the side of a bin.


  13. Dear LONGTIMER,

    I think you have to rationally sit down and do the math.

    I don’t know how many live in your household, but I’ll use mine for example. I have 5 and 2 dogs! We only put out a 33 gallon trash barrel of trash per week. And it’s usually NOT FULL. That is because we recycle.

    So, if I buy 1 33-gallon bag for each week (52 x $1.50/bag) That comes out to $78/year for my family. Not even close to your $300 price tag.

    In order to reach the $300 number you reference, I would have to throw out 4 – 33 gallon bags per week. And since the town pays to dispose of the trash based purely on weight, I’d say I’m doing my part to keep down the towns expenses. If I can get my trash down to less than 1 barrel/week, then you probably can too.

    It’s worth the extra effort to recycle.

    I’m not happy about the extra fee either, but guess what, it’s got to come from somewhere. Trash expenses costs the town close to $1 million every year.

    I would be interested in any suggestion you may have to couter that expense. It’s one thing to object but I think you (or anyone else that doesn’t like the plan) might want to suggest a back up plan.

  14. Dear: Mom of 3

    I applaud you for your efforts to reduce your trash load. You are doing a good job! I also support the efforts to reduce the amount of trash tipping. However, I doubt that your family is typical. Without compacting, I believe the typical family trash load is nearer to 3-4 bags a week. Also, I doubt that the typical “so called” 33 gallon trash bag will hold the same volume as a typical trash barrel. So you’ll probably be using more bags than you think. As noticed in other towns that have this foolish approach, the PAYT bags will probably be of inferior quality and you will need to prebag your trash in something more substantial. This adds more waste to the stream! I’m also not convinced that $1.50 is a fair cost for one trash bag. It seems excessive.

    What do you do with your food waste? We put ours in a barrel so that the dogs and other animals don’t spread it all around the neighborhood. How do we handle that aspect?

    $90,000 sounds like a lot of money, but I believe it is less that 0.3% of the town budget. In my view PAYT is a lot of aggravation for a minimal amount of savings.

    We could easily find this kind of savings by cutting some of the 600 pound gorilla in the room, the sacrosanct school budget! There are other town budget items that are ripe for cuts too!

    I did sit down and rationally did some math. Here goes. You claim that you are “doing my part to keep down the towns expenses”. I’m sorry to say, but at a $9,000 annual cost for each child, if you have 3 children in the Grafton schools, and you are not paying at least $27,000 in property taxes then you are not even close to paying your way.

    The Town selectmen keep nibbling around the edges of the budget but refuse to deal with the really big dollar items. The school committee absolutely refuses to believe that the schools are the largest part of the Town’s budget problems.

    If this PAYT scheme will save the town $90,000 in costs will the tax levy be dropped by that amount to compensate taxpayers for the added cost? I’m not holding my breath on that one! The municipal government hog will just eat that extra money up in the blink of an eye.

    I’m really angry that the voters don’t get to vote on this at town meeting. The selectmen and town administrator are pulling a fast one!

    You’re looking for suggestions. Right now you can put 4 barrels out for pickup. What if they reduced that to two and had PAYT for any excess? That would probably reduce the amount of tonnage quite substantially and wouldn’t penalize the people who try to limit their trash.

    If you really want to save money, the Town should also stop paying for unfunded state mandates.

  15. Regarding the recycling stickers…

    At some point we started using a RubberMade bin, there was no sticker and it was correctly picked up by the recycling truck, not the trash truck. When they went to single stream, we started using a regular trash barrel in addition to the RubberMade bin. We just put them side by side, seperated from the trash barrel by about 10 feet and they seem to be able to figure it out.

    I’ve been meaning to get to Town Hall to get some stickers, just haven’t had the time, or I forget when I do have the time, and it doesn’t seem to be urgent.

    Please don’t let the sticker stop you from maximizing your recycling.

  16. There will be recycling stickers available tonight at the GEA Spelling Bee.

    Stop by and pick up your FREE sticker!

  17. LongTimer.
    Where is the $90k figure coming from? I couldn’t find it in the blog so I’m just wondering where you got it from. Our town spends about $35-38k per month to dump trash @ Wheelabrator. There are now charts in the Grafton News that show what we spend. The less solid waste the town puts out, the less we pay. The more we, as a town, recycle, the more we, as a town, save!

    As I mentioned before, about $500k/year is spent on FIXED costs for this contract. No matter what we do, that doesn’t go away. Right now, we’re spending another $400-500k per year to tip at Wheelabrator. All said, it’s costing the town about $1 million per year. That’s about 3% of FY09 budget. That’s a pretty big chunck.

    This program is defraying the costs & at the same time, increasing the amt of trash we recycle. Shamefully, our town is pretty low compared to what neighboring towns’ recycling rates are. We need to do better. I agree my trash output is atypical in this town but that is why we need to improve. If I can do it, any family can! It’s not that difficult. Why wouldn’t you recycle??

    As far as me paying my share in taxes for kids going to school here, that’s a pretty empty argument. I’m willing to bet that you had children go through either this school system or some other school system. Should that same reasoning have applied to you during that time? We’re all in this together. Should I have my taxes reduced because I don’t use the Senior Ctr or because I haven’t had a fire. Perhaps I homeschool my kids or send them to private school. Every town/city has a school budget to support. Now, I won’t disagree that there may be cuts that can be made in that area. Have you gone to a School Committee Meeting? or a Selectmen’s Meeting?

    I would encourage people that are not happy with their town government to get involved.

  18. Dear: Mom of 3

    The $90,000 comes from the Talkin Trash blog “Our acting town administrator’s budget depends on PAYT starting in July — PAYT is expected to save the town an estimated $90,000 between revenues from bag sales and increased recycling.” It doesn’t say how that figure is arrived at.

    Rest assured that I do recycle. But, recycling isn’t a panacea. The amounts paid for recycled materials have dropped precipitously and many cities and towns are now being forced to dispose of their recycled materials at considerable cost.

    You’re right, the “not paying your way” argument is a bit unfair. But the real point is that the town budget is severely bloated and I don’t like the way our town government is dealing with it! We may all be in this together but some town departments act like they are the only game in town and shouldn’t be required to reign in their budgets. The sad truth is that this town, like all government, is addicted to increased spending and some of us just can’t afford it any more.

    Believe me, I’ve served on town boards and I’ve gone to many school committee and selectmen’s meetings. I’ve sat through many long Town Meetings sitting on those awfully hard seats in the high school auditorium. It gets to be very frustrating when the vested interests always find a way to get more of the taxpayer’s money to fund their fiefdoms.

    I guess I’m not willing to just say ” Oh Well that’s the way it is. The Town has a budget to support so I’ll just open my wallet and give them whatever they want.”

    The Selectmen better be prepared to take some heat on this PAYT idea.

  19. Longtimer,
    I for one consider myself a “long timer” or lifer in Grafton. As for the hard seats in the High School auditorium, I for one think they are just fine, if we make the seats any more comfortable, meetings will just be that much longer and we will have to listen and watch longer PowerPoint presentation (right GreaterGrafton?)

    I for one am not sold either way on Pay As You Throw (PAYT)… I think is a “Politically Correct” thing to bring up and just to let the PAYT supports and non supports know, you’re on notice with my vote, until someone can provide independent numbers from an outside accounting firm to “objectivity” confirm the numbers, I look at all the charts and graphs that point out savings and added costs as ads for new and used cars.

    As for education, the citizens of this country have the responsibility to provide a free education to its children. I find it hard to compare trash removal and or PAYT to a budget that is obviously larger than any other budget within the town. Schools become an easy target of criticizing and yet no one goes the FinCom or School Committee meetings and voices their opinions… LongTimer should know, did you attend that monster of a FinCom/BOS/School Committee meeting last year in the Gym?
    LongTimer, you say curb spending at the School Department, can you please provide examples besides salaries and benefits? Would you agree that the % of increase in spending is in line with inflation at or around the 3% mark for the entire Town? How about spending at the DPW, should we cut snow removal? How about parks and recreation too, come on, I for one do not have an answer but to come out and criticize what hard working people do on FinCom and other elected boards and commissions is a slap in the face to their integrity weather you like the people or not… I would like to know LongTimer have you ever encountered a time in history where it for one or two years costs less to live in this town than the previous ones, if that did happen can you please enlighten us as to why that happened and perhaps we could all learn from that example?

    It’s not a secret that the BOS, and School Committee does not pass any budget without Town Meeting approval, but we the people who are a legislative branch do exactly that at town meeting. I have yet to see a majority not pass an annual budget at town meeting! We have yet to pass a 2 1/2 override to make a balance budget, as was threatened last year by our previous TA, and because of hard work by the two charis last year Donna and John after the fiasco joint meeting with FinCom,BOS and School Committee, the town was presented with a balanced budget for 2009, and we should support a balanced budget for 2010….

  20. Are they going to decrease the taxes if they institute PAYT? Will they increase if they don’t? I like to have garbage bags that fit nicely in my bin and don’t tear in half all the time. I know some cities near boston just use stickers on your trash bag that you have to pay for. That would eliminate the need for double bagging like PB said above. Just to think a couple weeks ago I laughed at my friend in Worcester when he had to repack his trash into the ghetto yellow bags. Now we’re going to be just like them 😦

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