Letter To The Editor: Let’s Talk Trash; The Type You Pay To Throw

Photo: A sample PAYT bag presented at public discussions sponsored by the Belmont Department of Public Works in June.

To the editor:

The Belmont Board of Selectmen will need to vote soon on issuing a Request for Proposals for the town’s waste contract since the current contract expires in June. It’s really important that the RFP include Pay-As-You-Throw (PAYT) as an option.

We’re facing a future of higher waste disposal costs over the next several years because of capacity limits on incinerators and landfills. The state has set a goal for communities to reduce waste by 30 percent by 2020, which will be challenging. Belmont also has made limited progress against its 2009 Climate Action Plan for reducing greenhouse emissions to which our trash contributes. 

We have to consider progress against these goals. Failing to do so contributes to long-term higher costs for the town. Not taking every small and reasonable step we can now also clouds our children’s’ futures and saddles them with higher costs from climate change and environmental degradation. 

Because it encourages households to reduce unnecessary waste, PAYT is part of a menu of options Belmont needs to reduce its waste costs. Reducing household waste is something we need to do as part of our efforts to promote fiscal balance. It’s also something we need to do to be responsible stewards of our environment. 

With PAYT, households will buy special trash bags for a nominal fee, $1 to $2, so that there is a cost for filling each bag and more of an incentive to recycle. It’s estimated that PAYT could reduce Belmont’s trash by as much as 25 percent, which will reduce our carbon emissions by almost 4,000 metric tons. According to the EPA, that’s the equivalent of not burning 450,000 gallons of gasoline or switching about 142,000 incandescent light bulbs to LED’s

Dealing with new trash options is sure to be perceived as an inconvenience for some. Let’s not forget, though, that Belmont’s Town Meeting voted to empower our selectmen to consider PAYT as an option for the next waste contract. For it to be an option, it needs to be included in the RFP for the next trash contract. Belmont’s Department of Public Works is considering an option for automated pick up of trash cans that it refers to as a PAYT/SMART option – but it won’t lead to the kind of progress we need that true PAYT will bring.

As Belmont’s selectmen consider the issuance of this RFP, they need to consider not just the immediate cost to the town – something for which PAYT should be a winner. They also need to consider the long-term costs of keeping our community sustainable, costs which economists describe as “externalities,” but ultimately with time need to be faced by everyone. PAYT can help our community reduce costs and ensure our community’s future.

Mike Crowley

Farnham Street
Town Meeting Member Precinct 8

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Comments

  1. Jim Williams says

    Michael Crowley makes a good argument for PAYT. Also, it is under consideration as an option for our trash contract renewal which we intend to vote on absent new information at our 9/25 BOS Meeting as posted.

    We’ve had one public meeting already and Roger Colton, Kim Slack, Jay Marquette, Mary Beth Calnan, and Wesley Chin will be making their recommendations for the contract and, consequently, the RFP. An open discussion will follow.

    Permitted bulky pick-up, yard waste, and dual stream (separate plastic/paper streams) recycling are essentially “settled” which leaves the following questions in their necessarily logical priority:
    1) Automated pick up versus not?
    2) if automated, what size container? 32 or 64 gallon?
    3) PAYT under automated or not?

    Otherwise, Alison Manion’s argument above is less convincing as there is no evidence supporting the assertions:that the Citizen’s Working Group, the DPW, and the BOS have not conducted PAYT research ; that the BOS has decided not to include a PAYT option in RFP; that the BOS doesn’t honor the democratic process as they are sworn to to; or that they don’t make the best informed decisions on behalf of all of the citizens of Belmont. In fact, it is this last point that usually provokes those who disagree with the decisions made for the common good, even though their own beliefs arguably wouldn’t do so.

    Also, i mention for those who don’t compost, there are two services available to Belmont residents that will collect your compostables weekly and provide compost to you as you request for $14 per month. Melissa and I are doing it and we estimate it has reduced our trash output by up to 8 gallons a week. If we projected this onto the Town and assuming this weekly output weighs 15 lbs (which it does), we would have approximately 75 Tons or garbage removed from our Town flow weekly and nearly 4,000 tons annually. We have also become competitive in a friendly way with our neighbors to see who can leave the least trash for non recycling collection weeks leading us to pay more attention to our purchases’ packaging. Of course, some matters are better left to private initiative and this is one of those ( i.e. think enforcement) even though it’s tempting to think the it could make good public policy.

    The Trash meeting is scheduled for 6PM at Town Hall on Monday, 9/25.

    Best regards,

  2. Alison Manion says

    Why wouldn’t our selectmen want to include research about PAYT and vote to provide this information in the request for proposals? I think our politicians should honor the democratic process in our community so they are better able to make the best informed choices they can on behalf of the citizens of Belmont.
    Waste management is a form of pollution that each of us can help to control. All options for garbage removal should be on the table.

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