Town Lowers Planned Fees After Refuse Company Takes Business To Harwich

By: Alan Pollock

Topics: Recycling and Solid Waste

A sign at the transfer station warns that single-stream recyclables will no longer be accepted. The prohibition applies only to commercial waste haulers, not individual residents, who must separate recyclables. TIM WOOD PHOTO

CHATHAM The board of selectmen Monday softened plans to increase a variety of fees at the transfer station after a private trash hauling company indicated it had started taking its business to Harwich.

Faced with a $90 per ton increase to dispose of single-stream recyclables, and a large penalty if recyclables are mixed in with trash, Tim Milley said his company, Milley Trucking, has begun bringing its trash to the Harwich transfer station. That news caught the attention of selectmen Monday, who were considering a package of fee increases for waste disposal in Chatham.

The town is hiking fees at the transfer station, in part, to offset the increased cost of recycling. At the center of the issue is the collapse of the global market for recyclables that are mixed together in a single stream. In a bid several years ago to encourage more recycling, Chatham began accepting co-mingled recyclables from commercial trash haulers at no charge. At the time, there were buyers for the mixed recyclables, but now only a few facilities accept them, and the cost the town pays to dispose of the items is increasing.

DPW Director Tom Temple has proposed increasing the fee for commercial co-mingled recyclables from zero to $90 per ton. Disposing of the materials at the Bourne transfer station costs Chatham $62 per ton, but that figure does not include the cost of trucking the recyclables to the nearest facilities that accept them in Bourne or Westborough, Temple said. Without a rate change, subsidizing the single-stream recycling from commercial trash haulers would cost the town about $155,000 annually, he said.

Milley told selectmen that one of his drivers brought a load of co-mingled recyclables to the Chatham transfer station on Jan. 31, and the attendant said the recyclables were no longer being accepted.

“So we dumped it. And I received a letter from Tom saying that, as of Jan. 31, 2018, no commercial hauler will be allowed to bring single-stream co-mingled recyclables into this facility,” he said. The letter urged commercial haulers to find another place to bring those loads. “There is no other place,” Milley said. The remaining facilities that accept single-stream recyclables are the Bourne landfill, Covanta in Rochester, Mass., E.L. Harvey in Westborough, and Castella Waste Systems in Charlestown. Milley said for 30 years he has done business with E.L. Harvey, which had been exporting 10 trailers of single-stream recyclables every day. “Now he’s lucky if he can get 10 trailers out in a week,” Milley said. The company is not accepting new customers, he added.

Unable to unload the single-stream recyclables anywhere, Milley mixed the trash and recyclables together, and Temple said doing so is illegal. He said he would double Milley’s $80 per ton trash tipping fee for any other loads that were contaminated with recyclables.

“So I made another arrangement. I’m going to the town of Harwich,” Milley said. He said he is bringing trash and recyclables mixed together to the Harwich transfer station. “I don’t know exactly what they’re doing with it,” he said, but certain communities have obtained waivers from state regulators allowing trash and recyclables to be mixed together until markets are available.

Milley Trucking is one of two commercial trash haulers that use the Chatham transfer station; the other is Benjamin T. Nickerson, Inc.

“These folks have worked in this town for generations,” Selectman Jeffrey Dykens said. The town could lose more than $100,000 annually because Milley Trucking is going to Harwich, he noted. Dykens said he also takes issue with Temple’s decision to threaten doubling Milley’s trash tipping fee for contaminated loads. Board member Dean Nicastro agreed.

“That’s concerning to me. I don’t think you have the authority to say to somebody, if you do it again we’re going to charge you double,” Nicastro said.

Temple said mixing recyclables and rubbish is illegal in Massachusetts. Obtaining a waiver from the Department of Environmental Protection is something the town will investigate, Natural Resources Director Robert Duncanson said.

“We say it’s illegal, but apparently no one’s enforcing it,” Dykens said.

Selectmen voted to set the new fee for commercial single-stream recycling at $58 per ton, rather than $90.

The package of fee increases also proposed raising the fee for commercial garbage from $80 to $100. Dykens asked Milley whether, single-stream recycling aside, that fee increase was too much.

“Is that going to influence your decision as to where to dump?” he asked.

Milley chuckled, and asked whether Dykens wanted to know if raising the fee would lure him back to Chatham.

“I think that’s self-explanatory,” Milley said.

Selectmen voted to hold the commercial trash fee at $80. They opted against a $5 increase in the recycling sticker fee, and raised the per-ton fee for commercial grass clippings and leaves from $40 to $50, instead of the recommended $60.