Once A Holiday Tradition, Cardboard Drop Offs Are No Longer A Gift That Gives

Photo: Cardboard stacked for recycling (credit: Marek Ślusarczyk or www.microstock.pl)

In recent years, the end-of-the-year holidays in Belmont meant festive meals, family get togethers, presents and cardboard drop off, where the town would take away all their cardboard packages at one for a small fee.

And the drop offs were once as popular as Santa. In January 2021, nearly 350 vehicles waited an hour at the Department of Public Works’ Yard as the town collected 22 tons of cardboard filling five 40-yard long containers, two truck bays and six 6-wheel dump trucks. Just last year, the Belmont Select Board proposed three drop off days before and after Christmas with the expectation of a similar high demand for the service.

Well, this holiday, it appears the Select Board is declaring “bah, humbug” to a new set of drop offs. While there has been initial discussions between the DPW and the town on holding a single event, the Select Board has squashed those plans.

“Cardboard? We’re not going to do it,” said Roy Epstein, chair of the Select Board, who overheard a conversation on the subject before the start of its scheduled meeting. To have that declarative statement coming from Epstein was a bit of a surprise as he himself said, “I was the original advocate of the drop off.”

Epstein pointed out that while the high point of the drop off program occurred during the height of COVID restrictions, circumstances have changed to where “the program has failed the market test ever since.”

Pointing to the most recent events, Epstein said barely 250 of Belmont’s 10,000 households participated in the program as residents have become increasingly happy to cut up or fold their cardboard in the green/blue recycling carts.

“As [DPW Director} Jay [Marcotte] has said many times that people get very personal about their trash. This is one example,” said Epstein.

And the town was not seeing a financial pop from collecting cardboard. While the Wall Street Journal has reported late in 2023 a modest “cardboard comeback,” the limited number of participants and expenses placed on a small producer such as Belmont would require the town to increase the $5 per vehicle fee just to break even, according to Patrice Garvin, Belmont’s town administrator.

“Remember, Select Board members reached into their own pockets to fund the deficit the last few times we had drop offs,” said Epstein. “I don’t see what the advantages are for the town.”

Cardboard, Old Trash Barrel Drop-Off At Town Yard This Saturday, Sept. 29

Photo: Yes, bring it all in for recycling – but you’ll have to keep the truck.

Still have that large package for your 54-inch screen laying about the basement? Do you have an ever growing pile of Amazon Prime boxes in the side room? And what about the large barrels made redundant with the town’s new garbage and recycling carts? 

Well, the solution to both of your problems is coming this Saturday, Sept. 29 when the town conducts a Cardboard and Container Drop-Off from 9 a.m. to noon at the Department of Public Works Town Yard located at the end of C Street off Waverley Street. 

Have lots of corrugated cardboard? If it is flattened and kept dry, it can be dropped off.

Old trash barrels and recycling bins that you won’t reuse for yard waste – those containers must be 32-gallons or smaller – or storage will also be collected.

And you can take barrels home as those in like-new condition will be available for reuse!