Selectmen OK Automated Trash Collection, Pay As You Throw Set Aside For Now

Photo: Kim Slack speaking before the Board of Selectmen, DPW Director Jay Marcotte looking on.

Belmont residents will soon have their curbside trash picked up by an automated trash collection truck requiring each household to use a 65-gallon wheeled barrel to place their garbage after the Belmont Board of Selectmen voted 2 to 1 to back the recommendation of the Department of Public Works Director Jay Marcotte to make a move towards mechanization.

The decision came after nearly four hours of presentations, discussion and debate before approximately 70 residents in the Town Hall auditorium on Monday, Sept. 25. Marcotte will now create a request for proposal (RFP) for a five-year contract by the end of October which will allow the winning bidder to purchase new equipment and acquire the nearly 10,000 bins that will go to each household in Belmont.

While “there is no panacea” when it comes to waste collection, Marcotte told the board the automated system – which is fast becoming the industry standard – strikes “a happy medium” regarding cost and the reduction of trash the town will collect.

He noted that using the barrels with the automated collection trucks – which has a mechanical arm that grabs the cans and flips them into a collection area – is the “right-sized for a majority of similar municipalities.” He pointed to the reduction in the trash in towns such as Burington (24 percent), Wilmington (26 percent), Dracut (19 percent) and  Dedham (35 percent) who have recently turned to automation.

According to Marcotte, Belmont’s new collection program – which will begin in 2018 – is similar to the one operated by the town of Wakefield which began its automated system in 2014.

Marcotte said data the department has gathered indicates the 65-gallon bins will meet the capacity needs of three of four Belmont households.

In a compromise to residents and board members, the DPW will accommodate residents who find using a 65-gallon barrel to be unwieldy, difficult to move, or more than they need by providing a 35-gallon barrel as an alternative.

Adam Dash voted against the motion because it did not have a provision to research the viability of using 35-gallon bins rather than the bulkier one.

While many of the current curbside services will remain in place in the next contract – the town will continue a separate recycling pickup and yard waste collection – large “bulky” items such as mattresses and furniture will now be limited to one free removal a week.                                                                                           

While selecting a traditional pickup and haul collection system, the selectmen said they had not abandoned the Pay-As-You-Throw method from future discussion. The PAYT approach was one of the most hotly debated of the items discussed. A presentation by Kim Slack of Sustainable Belmont focused on the dual benefits of reducing trash while cutting the town’s carbon footprint by undertaking this program. 

PAYT is just that, requiring households to purchase biodegradable bags for between $1 and $2 a bag for trash collection. Slack said that nearly 40 percent of Bay State communities have undertaken this system and have seen trash reduced from 25 percent to 50 percent. 

“Why not encourage more recycling,” quired Slack, noting that Belmont’s rate has not budged from the current 22 percent of total recycling, compared to Arlington’s 30 percent.

But several residents spoke against PAYT, calling it a hidden tax on residents, many who approved a 1990 override that paid for the current system of unlimited curbside collection. 

“I’m suggesting this is an underhanded way of an override,” said former Selectman Stephen Rosales who said recycling rates could be increased with more education, rather than a regressive “tax.” 

At the end of the meeting, the selectmen suggested discussing in the next two years whether to implement the PAYT method with the automated system.

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  1. TK says

    What about weekly recycling? As a huge recycling family – have to say…. If you want people to recycle more – single stream and weekly recycling is the ONLY way to go.

  2. Martha Moore says

    Will the program could be “revenue-neutral” , where all bag revenue (minus the wholesale cost of the bags) is returned annually to households by some means? There would then be a financial incentive for households to reduce trash and possibly increase recycling in the town.

    Any other planned use of revenue from this program needs to be publicly vetted – given due process.,and voted up or down.

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