Belmont Is The Gold Standard – For Solid Waste; Town Set To Vote On New Five-Year Trash Contract

Photo: Waste Management automated truck (credit: WM)

When the Belmont Solid Waste and Recycling Committee and representatives of the town’s Department of Public Works visited Waste Management’s Material Recycling Facility in Billerica in May – the place where your recycling goes – the group witnessed one of the bales of recycled material was audited for contaminates. That would demonstrate how careful Belmont households are in placing the proper materials in the 96-gallon barrels.

While most communities are in the 30 percent range – examples of contaminates from other towns include cider blocks, aluminum bats, and a boa constrictor thrown in recycling bins – Belmont is at seven percent. “We are one of the towns with the lowest contamination rates. Waste Management is very proud of that,” gushed Mahesh Jayakumar, the chair of the collection committee.

With Belmont being the ”gold standard” with its recyclables program and demonstrating a double-digit percentage reduction in trash collection in the past half-decade, “we are doing very well over the past five years,” Jay Marcotte, DPW director, told the Belmont Select Board during a presentation on the next five-year solid waste contract on Nov. 14.

It’s been since 2018 that the town signed its first contract with Waste Management – the largest US waste removal company with about a quarter the market – involving automated collection, with recyclables, are processed as a “single stream,” which allows residents to mix paper, cardboard, glass, and plastics.

Besides the automated collection of trash and recycling, the current contract includes picking up one “bulky” item a week, yard waste collection from April to December, Christmas tree removal for two week in January and a fee-based removal system for TVs and appliances.

Category Old Contract in FY ’18New Contract in FY ’22
Trash 7,326 tons or 1,465 lbs. per dwelling6,215 tons or 1,243 lbs. per dwelling
Recycling2,118 tones or 423 lbs. per dwelling 3,209 tons or 642 lbs. per dwelling
Credit: Belmont Department of Public Works

In the five years since the switch from manual to the automated collection, Belmont is a recycling juggernaut, increasing the amount it recycles by nearly 52 percent to about 642 lbs. per household – while other communities that also changed saw about half the gains. During the same time, the trash removed from Belmont dwellings has been reduced by 15 percent, double what other communities have seen. WM also removed an estimated 2,500 “ex”-Christmas trees and 3,200 “bulky” items.

Yet, while Belmont will receive a premium rate from WM for being a recycling-friendly community, the town can expect a steady increase in the price to remove trash in the coming five years. That’s because there is a Brave New World of recycling economics, so much so that “we have to pay for it, and it’s now more expensive than trash [removal],” said Marcotte.

The market changed radically in early 2018 when the Chinese government suddenly banned accepting recyclables from the rest of the world. Today, Belmont’s “recyclables are subject to market swings and commodity prices,” said Jayakumar. The recycling processing fee was affected the most, which increased from $45 per ton in fiscal year ’18 to $101 per ton in fiscal ’23. In the proposed contract extension, the processing fee will jump 36 percent to $137 per ton in fiscal ’25, with 3.5 percent increases in the remaining four years.

Belmont will also face two significant cost increases under the WM extension: a 23 percent jump in the prevailing wage for WM employees and annual inflation rates of eight-to-nine percent. To spread out expenses over the five years, the group has worked with WM on a plan which would see a 4.5 percent increase in the first year, fiscal ’24, with years two to five, increasing 3.6 percent annually.

In the proposed five-year WM contract, curbside collection expenses – which includes trash, recycling, and yard waste collection along with Christmas trees and bulky items – will increase from the current $2.449 million in fiscal ’23 to $2.948 million by fiscal ’28.

After reviewing the data, the committee recommended on Oct. 18 that the best option would be a five-year contract extension with WM. An extension will ensure no disruption in service for five years while providing a “reasonable rate” of increase given the expected elevated inflation.

While the Select Board decided to push back a vote on the recommendation to its Monday, Nov. 21 meeting, it appears ready to follow the advice of the Collection committee and DPW.

Snow Storm Delays Thursday Trash/Recycling Pickup to Friday

Photo: Delayed a day

The approaching snowstorm set to dump more than a foot of snow onto Belmont Wednesday and Thursday has forced the town’s rubbish vendor Waste Management to delay by one day the trash and recycling collection scheduled on Thursday, Dec. 17, according to the town’s Department of Public Works.

The new pick up date is on Friday, Dec. 18.

The DPW is also asking residents to please keep trash and recycling barrels clear of roadways and sidewalks until snow removal is complete.

Bag Your Trash To Help Out Those Who Take It Away

Photo: Waste Management truck

Washing your hands, putting on a cloth mask and staying indoors; those are acts all people should be doing to protect themselves and others during this long pandemic.

Add to that list one more thing: Bag your trash.

That’s the advice coming from Waste Management, the town’s trash and recycling hauler.

According to the national collector, due to increased concerns for worker safety due to the COVID-190 coronavirus, residents are being asked to place all household trash into large trash bags before placing them into the black carts and taking them to the curb for collection. The company also asks that all bags are properly sealed to prevent contents from spilling out as it is placed into the trucks.

The company reminds all customers that latex and other gloves used to protect individuals from spreading the virus be placed in the trash; they do not belong in the blue recycling containers.

Starting Oct. 1, Close Your Trash Lids Or You’ll Be Left At The Curb

Photo: NO! The incorrect way to leave your trash carts for the hauler.

Starting Monday, Oct 1, trash carts whose lids are not fully closed will be left behind on the curb. And don’t go crying to the town about having to wait a week to have your garbage taken away.

That’s the word from Belmont Department of Public Works Director Jay Marcotte who told the Board of Selectmen at its Friday, Sept. 29 meeting that Waste Management – Belmont’s hauler of household garbage and recyclables since July 1 – has decided it was the right time to have the Town of Homes follow the procedures the company has at its service locations around the country. 

The reason the lids must be closed is to prevent spillage from overflowing carts when they are lifted into the receptacle trucks. 

For those residents who are scofflaws to this new enforcement measure, Waste Management will sticker barrels that are not closed or have unofficial bags on top of trash barrel lid. The town will not send the hauler back to empty stickered trash. Those citizens will have to wait until the following week and then the process must be done correctly; the cart lid closed and excess trash placed in official overflow bags next to the cart.

While Mike Santoro, the head of the highway division, said there is a little leeway for carts whose lids are slightly open, Selectman Mark Paolillo – who has become a crusader against wayward trash around town – was rigid in his support of a completed closed lid, saying there should be no wavering in the law’s application, noting he regularly uses the supplemental bags.

The overflow bags can be purchased at Star Market on Trapelo Road, Hillside True Value on Blanchard Road and the DPW Office at 19 Moore St. The cost is $15 for a sleeve containing five 32-gallon bags.

Trash Update: Keep Using The Old Barrels If Your ‘Carts’ Haven’t Arrived

Photo: Ready to go!

“Where’rah my barrels?”

That clarion call has been heard from homeowners throughout Belmont as the slow rollout of the new trash and recycling carts scheduled for the past week has reached just about half of Belmont’s households.

And while the new automated garbage and recycling collection system starting today, Monday, July 2, don’t fret that you’ll need to store your trash during the ongoing heat wave. According to the Department of Public Works, if you haven’t seen your new trash and recycling carts, just continue using the old barrels. At least for one more week.

Micheal Santoro, head of the DPW’s Highway Division, said Waste Management – Belmont’s new collection provider –  has supplied just about 50 percent residences with a pair of carts. Santoro said that percentage of carts is what Waste Management expected to deliver the first week with the rest of the households receiving their either this week or next week. Some streets such as Pleasant and Beech received new carts this morning.

No resident who still hasn’t obtained carts will be left holding the bag (of garbage); just keep using existing barrels until the new ones arrive, said Santoro.

Now, what to do with your old barrels and recycling bins? Well, the DPW hopes you’ll keep them around for collecting yard waste (they’ll need “Yard Waste” stickers), leaves and other for other uses. The reason they aren’t being disposed of by the town? Apparently, there currently isn’t a market for “rigid plastics” which the old barrels are considered. The DPW is hoping to take the old barrels during the annual DPW Recycle Day in October when it will be profitable or breakeven. If not, the DPW will likely hold a day to collect these items and dispose of them as trash.

Garbage Giant Named Belmont’s New Trash/Recycling Hauler

Photo: A WM side loading collection truck.

A giant in the waste removal industry was officially named Belmont’s trash and recycling hauler on Monday, Feb. 26 after winning a five-year contract with the town.

Waste Management of Houston was selected by Department of Public Works Director Jay Marcotte and approved unanimously by the Board of Selectmen at the board’s Monday morning meeting. Waste Management’s winning bid of $12.2 million over five years was $2.3 million less than the only other accepted bid from Casella Waste Systems of Rutland, Vermont.

Waste Management services approximately 21 million residential, industrial, municipal and commercial customers in US, Canada, and Puerto Rico with the largest trucking fleet in the waste removal industry with 26,000 collection and transfer vehicles.

The contract includes fully automated trash and recycling collection using 65-gallon (for trash) and 96-gallon (recycling) wheeled barrels, yard waste removal, the collection of Christmas trees and other bulky items as well as a fee for recycling processing. The contract begins on July 1. 

While Waste Management takes over trash and recycling in four months, it will continue collecting curbside waste and recycling manually until the firm has purchased the new trucks that will service Belmont.

“The start date will be when they meet their comfort level,” said Marcotte, which could happen in the early fall. Before then, the DPW and town will reach out to homeowners and residents to educate the town on the new automated system. 

The breakdown of the payments over the five years are:

  • Fiscal ’19: $2,224,296
  • Fiscal ’20: $2,355,554
  • Fiscal ’21: $2,442,192
  • Fiscal ’22: $2,531,867
  • Fiscal ’23: $2,624,685

The first year of the new contract is approximately $350,000 more than the fiscal ’18 fee paid to Somerville-based Russell Disposal. 

Marcotte told the board if there are any changes in the current market for recyclables beneficial to the town, “[Waste Management] promised to renegotiate the contract.”