ORLEANS — The selectmen and board of health will hold a joint public information session Sept. 10 at 5:30 p.m. about a proposed Pay As You Throw (PAYT) trash disposal plan that could start as early as June 1. Members want to hear what citizens have to say on the possible change.
“If I were to make a motion tonight, it would include the words, 'Time is of the essence,'” health board member Sims McGrath said. “We know we're looking at a huge increase in costs for next year for disposing solid waste.”
On Aug. 9, New Bedford Waste Services, LLC, with which the town has a contract for waste disposal, announced it is increasing the rate per ton from $59.25 to $75 as of Oct. 1. A principal benefit of PAYT, according to DPW/Natural Resources Director Tom Daley, is that it encourages people to separate recyclable material from solid waste, significantly reducing the tonnage the town has to pay to have hauled off-Cape for burning or burial.
PAYT, according to the state Department of Environmental Protection, “has been shown to decrease a community's residential trash tonnage disposed by 35 to 50 percent, significantly reducing solid waste disposal costs.” During the last six months of 2011, when Sandwich implemented the system, its solid waste stream was reduced by 41 percent.
Pay As You Throw involves the purchase of specially marked bags of various volumes for trash disposal. By keeping as much recyclable material as possible out of their trash bags, ratepayers can reduce the town's and their own costs.
After a series of meetings, the board of health favors a plan advanced by Daley that he says would continue to cover 80 percent of the disposal operation's budget, including benefits (the rest is made up from the general fund). Under this scheme, the disposal sticker fee would be reduced to $75 from $125 and three sizes of bags for trash would be offered for purchase in local stores: small (8 gallon) for 50 cents, kitchen-size (15 gallon) for $1, and large (30 gallon) for $1.50.
To make things easier, the health board is recommending a single-stream recycling program. Ratepayers would not have to separate glass, plastic, and paper, for example, but could bring a single bin filled with all three recyclables to the transfer station.
Separation “can be difficult, convoluted, and time-consuming either at home or a transfer station,” McGrath said at last week's meeting. “It generates a crowding situation in the busy season at the transfer station. If you simplify the recycling process, you simplify the traffic process.”
Americans, said health board member John Kanaga, “in general are bad at recycling. They're bad at cleaning recycling. With education, we'll have a cleaner recycling stream. It'll be cost-efficient for the town if that happens.” Daley said there “may be a tick down in quality” from single-stream recycling, “but you're getting so much more of it. This is much more of a net [gain] than it just going to trash.” Also, he said, separation technology at materials recovery facilities has been improving.
Selectman David Currier, who is also a business owner, warned that shifting to a bag-buying system such as PAYT would lead to an increase in illegal disposal. He said a person he spoke to in Chatham about that town's decision not to adopt the program said, “You don't account for people who don't want to pay.” Currier said he was told owners of businesses in Sandwich such as gas stations and restaurants saw an uptick in dumping “right after Pay As You Throw was implemented.” As a business owner, he said, he has cameras trained on his dumpsters and has seen illegal dumping going on at 3 in the morning. “It's a real problem that already happens,” he said. “All the time, you see people leaving couches in rest areas.”
People “do from time to time put trash in dumpsters,” Daley said. “I've been involved in this type of program in three different communities. It's a common comment... Generally, people want to do the right thing and generally will follow the program. Any community I've been involved with hasn't seen a jump in stuff on the side of the road.”
Selectmen Chairman Mark Mathison said addressing illegal dumping, whether at businesses or by the roadside, should be a separate agenda item for both boards, including enforcement. “Even without PAYT,” he said, “with the huge increase for every town on Cape Cod for solid waste disposal forcing sticker prices up, the temptation for people to dishonestly dispose of their trash will increase. Also, he wanted to ensure that PAYT would not create a hardship for lower-income residents.
With the exception of Currier, the vote of both boards was unanimous to hold the Sept. 10 public information session.