BRATTLEBORO — The town's pay-as-you-throw curbside trash pick-up program is evolving.
"It's very clear from six months of data that we have reached a new normal," said Assistant Town Manager Patrick Moreland. "What's clear is the changes to our waste stream have taken hold, that they're significant and that they're very stable."
Moreland spoke on the subject towards the end of Tuesday's Selectboard meeting, providing a final update from the Pay As You Throw Advisory Committee before it dissolved. He said the committee recommended the Selectboard charge residents the actual cost of recycling bins rather than "underwriting" it as previously done.
The prices for bins will jump on Aug. 1 in preparation for higher amounts of compost expected to be collected as the town moves to a bi-weekly schedule for trash pick-up in July. Recycling and compost will continue to be hauled away weekly.
"You don't have to use the town-approved bucket," said Selectboard Vice Chairwoman Kate O'Connor. "We're not requiring people to come here and buy an $18 compost bin."
When recycling became mandatory in Brattleboro, the town provided participants their first bin for free. Each additional bin cost $9. When the compost program was established, new buckets were purchased at $18 and sold at $10.
"The motivation for discounted bins and buckets serves as an incentive for those that have yet to adopt the new program," Moreland wrote in a memo to the board. "However, the cost savings incentive that can be had from active participation in the curbside compost collection programs has yet to persuade almost 2,000 dwelling units in the curbside program."
Illegal dumping did increase in 2015. But officials are wary about pointing a finger at the pay-as-you-throw garbage collection system which started in July that year.
The Brattleboro Police Department received nine complaints in 2013, seven in 2014 and 29 in 2015. Six of the 29 complaints involved littering and were not included in an analysis by Capt. Mark Carignan.
"Some are rather just instances of illegal dumping that would have otherwise taken place," Moreland said. "Capt. Carignan also notes the present instances of illegal dumping are not overly taxing to the department."
According to Carignan, five complaints resulted in police identifying the offender and issuing a warning. Seven complaints involved the department issuing tickets. Ten complaints were investigated without an offender being identified. One complaint is still under investigation. And four of the complaints had to do with recycling bins at the Department of Public Works.
"In cases where an offender is not identified, the cause is usually a lack of witnesses or a lack of identifying information inside of the trash bags. Further, officers do not search trash that represents an unreasonable hazard, such as a bag that was found that contained a hypodermic needle," Carignan stated.
Two subjects said they knew about the town's pay-as-you-throw program and no one has claimed they were trying to avoid it. This information paired with the statistics caused Carignan to suggest the town conduct additional follow-up year comparisons on illegal dumping.
Compost quality was a concern for Windham Solid Waste Management District Executive Director Bob Spencer before the pay-as-you-throw system was implemented, according to Moreland.
"That just hasn't materialized," Moreland said. "The quality of the product being delivered to the waste management district today is as good as it was when it was a much smaller program, which is, I think, a real testament to the commitment with which Brattleboro citizens have elected to participate. They've put their heart and soul into it. The results are impressive and a solid and growing supply of quality compostable materials are being delivered to the district on a weekly basis."