Throw Out The Barrels: Belmont Eyeing Carry In, Carry Out Trash Policy

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If the Belmont Department of Public Works has its way; the trash you make on town property will be equal to the trash you take out.

At a recent meeting before the Belmont Board of Selectmen, the DPW’s Highway Division proposed a town-wide initiative of removing all trash barrels in municipal parks and commercial business areas, according to DPW head Jay Marcotte.

Instead, the town will take a garbage in, garbage out approach to the problem of barrels overflowing with the gross stuff that people throw away.

The new system, dubbed Carry In Carry Out, is straightforward and direct: All trash and waste generated by a resident on town property will now be taken “out” by that same person.

Currently, the town empty barrels on Monday, Wednesday, and Fridays while the town’s trash removal contractor, FW Russell & Sons, removes waste from containers in Belmont’s business districts on the same days. From April to December, the DPW has a two-person crew going to the town’s fields and parks on Saturdays.

But Marcotte noted that with containers, “it’s the ‘Field of Dreams’ concept: If you build it, they will come. If you have trash barrels, trash will come.” 

What Highway crews have long discovered is people toss household trash into the containers. Also, industrial and contractor waste are found by the DPW. Other times, residents attempt to squeeze large boxes into a barrel, clogging it up. And when the containers are filled, people will place their trash along the side.

Rather than canisters and waste baskets, signs and notices would take their place requiring all participants in remove the waste generated to be put in home containers and recycling bins.

The DPW is moving forward with what appears to be counterintuitive to keeping parks and spaces clean due, in large part, to the almost daily abuse and neglect of the town’s barrels. Despite emptying the containers several times a week, many in popular areas are constantly filled to the brim.

The hope is that containerless town sites will promote residents to keep parks and recreation land clean and minimize illegal dumping. People using the sites will be more likely to use reusable containers and bottles and will be more willing to recycle items they bring home.

The policy of taking away the trash is gaining in popularity locally and around the country. Nearby Walden Pond in Concord, the Boston Harbour Islands, the National Park System and the municipalities of Gloucester, Reading, and Needham have joined the trend.

While the Health Department isn’t eager to see the barrels be removed, they are for the removal with a one-word response: vermin! Dr. David Alper, longtime chair of the Belmont Board of Health, said the most efficient method of reducing the number of rats, birds, wasps and squirrels is by removing their food source.

Only the most secure trash containers made of steel with small openings – which are quite expensive – would be as effective in preventing pest infestation as not having barrels at all, said Alper.

And after seeing photographic evidence of the abuse, some residents are heaped upon barrels and other containers, the Selectmen voiced their support for a change.

“I can’t believe this. It is disgusting … This is totally unacceptable,” said Selectmen Chair Mark Paolillo of a photo showing the aftermath of a men’s summer league championship at the Belmont High School softball field with the area surrounding a barrel marked with empty beer cans and sparkling wine bottles.

Paolillo said the Recreation Department should be issuing warnings to teams that abuse the sites and leaving garbage at town locations, “or we will revoke the league’s permit!”

Marcotte said his department would like to start the new policy in the spring and chronicle the impact. They are only waiting for the town’s Park Commissioners – which is made up of the Board of Selectmen – to give the OK.

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