Chatham Proposes Raising Transfer Station Fees

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 In a bid to dig out from a growing pile of bills from recycling companies, the town is seeking to increase a variety of fees at the transfer station. While the change will affect per-item charges for residents recycling old mattresses, tires and electronics, the biggest increase will be for local commercial haulers looking to bring in mixed recyclables.

For those two companies, Benjamin T. Nickerson, Inc., and Milley Trucking, it would mean paying $90 a ton to dispose of single-stream recyclables in Chatham. Currently, they pay nothing to dispose of those co-mingled recyclables as part of an incentive adopted several years ago to boost recycling in town.

DPW Director Tom Temple told selectmen Monday that the town’s cost of disposing of single-stream recyclables has jumped from $32 to $62 a ton, thanks to stricter standards adopted by recycling companies in China last year. As a result, countries around the world are finding it more expensive to recycle all kinds of materials, he said.

Without a rate change, subsidizing the single-stream recycling from commercial trash haulers would cost the town about $155,000 annually, he said. That figure does not include the cost of trucking the recyclables to the nearest facilities that accept them in Bourne or Westborough, Temple said.

“The way I’m reading this, it sounds awful,” Selectman Jeffrey Dykens said of the cost increases for single-stream recyclables.

“We can’t get rid of it anymore. There’s no market for it,” Temple said.

Increasing the cost to commercial haulers from zero to $90 is a significant jump, Dykens said.

“Won’t single-stream become uneconomic?” he asked.

Unless the market for mixed recyclables returns, it will continue to be an expensive proposition, Temple replied. Haulers will either pay $90 per ton to dispose of the items in Chatham or will truck the items to Bourne themselves and pay $62 a ton.

The price hike is part of a package of fee increases Temple proposed this week. Under the plan, the per-ton fee for commercial garbage would increase from $80 to $100. Landscapers and commercial haulers bringing in grass and leaves would pay $60 per ton rather than $40.

For commercial and residential users, many per-item disposal fees would increase between $2 and $15.

“Now our big issues are mattresses, glass,” and sometimes co-mingled paper, Temple said. Mattresses cost the town $45 or $50 each to dispose of, and new requirements mean that the town must keep old mattresses out of the rain. It currently costs customers $15 to dispose of a mattress, a fee that will double under the new price schedule, but will still not cover the town’s cost, Temple said.

The fee to dispose of old tires, sofas and miscellaneous electronics will increase by $5. The cost for residents to dispose of car- or truck-loads of brush will increase $2 or $3 per trip.

The new fee schedule does not include an increase in regular transfer station stickers or combination beach and transfer station stickers, but recycling-only stickers will increase from $5 to $10.

Temple could not quantify the savings the town would realize from the new fees, but planned to provide that information to selectmen in two weeks. Until that time, selectmen opted not to adopt the new schedule. Temple said he is eager to implement the changes so that the commercial haulers can adjust their own rates or make new plans for single-stream recyclables.

The increased cost of recycling means that it would be cheaper for the town to dispose of certain recyclables the same way it handles trash, but it does not have the option of doing so. SEMASS, the trash-to-energy facility that accepts the town’s refuse and burns it to generate electricity, does not accept items that can be recycled. Several years ago, a large increase in SEMASS fees prompted the town to encourage more recycling. Part of that initiative involved allowing commercial haulers to bring co-mingled recyclables for free.

In related news, Temple said the town is considering a change that would allow transfer station users to pay fees by credit card in addition to cash. The operation processes around $120,000 annually in cash transactions, he said. Town officials are in talks with various banks to find the most economical system and will decide whether to purchase credit card machines or rent them. The goal, Temple said, is to have the payment option available to customers by June, “before the July busy season is upon us.”