BRATTLEBORO — Recycling Coordinator Moss Kahler says he does not anticipate any "great challenges" as the town moves its trash pickup frequency from once a week to once every other week.
"Some folks are concerned about holding on to trash for a two-week period and the answer is quite simple and it's been available to people for over three years now. And that's the curbside compost program, because the items that make trash smell are all items that are accepted in the curbside compost program, which continues to be picked up every week," Kahler said.
Only curbside trash collection will change starting on Monday, July 11. Recycling and composting will remain on the same weekly schedule.
To find out whether a residence is on an "A" or "B" street, residents can look at brattleboro.org. The "bi-weekly trash pickup information" is under the "news" tab on the website. Residents living in apartment buildings with more than four units will not be affected by the change.
Things that wouldn't be composted include film, plastic, a tooth brush or potato chip bag. That leaves little for trash disposal and reduces the risk of having bad odors stick around, said Kahler.
While the town is seeing an increase in curbside composting, Kahler had not seen as many people as he expected to purchase curbside carts. But he said more people may have backyard compost piles or garbage disposals than he's aware of.
The town is encouraging people to join the curbside composting program, Kahler said. The carts are available at the Finance Director's Office at the Municipal Center for $10 each.
"This is a heavily discounted price. It's the price we've been selling these carts at since we started the program three years ago. But at the end of July or Aug. 1, the town is going to increase the price to cover the town's cost and charge any residents who purchase after July 31 what the town is paying."
The bump to $20, Kahler said, will still be saving people money as the carts are sold for $28 or $30 at retail stores.
The compost goes to the Windham Solid Waste Management District on Old Ferry Road where "it stays local sort to speak," said Kahler, referring to how the material is turned into "a very nutrient-rich soil additive for gardens and lawns."
"I've used it myself. It's fantastic," he said.
Developing the schedule for trash pickup did not involve anything "particularly exciting or scientific," Kahler said. Efficiency for trucks and drivers was the main concern.
Since the early 1990s, recycling was collected curbside every other week. But it was picked up every week when the town started the curbside composting program in 2013.
"We went back and took that old division of the routes and applied it to the trash truck," said Kahler.
A town-wide mailing was sent to residents regarding the schedule change, then informational sessions were held in May. Another reminder went out via postcard last week.
Taxpayers are expected to save a little over $100,000 a year through the effort. Triple T Trucking will go from having two trucks picking up trash and another two picking up compost or recycling each day to having one truck picking up trash and the other two staying on the same schedule.
"That's a substantial savings in both manpower and equipment," said Kahler. "And that is where the town is seeing the bulk of the $100,000 savings."
The town also anticipates other savings by having less trash and more compost as a result of the change.
"Trash costs more to dispose of in a landfill than it costs to process the compost," said Kahler. "For every ton that gets shifted from trash to compost, there's a savings of about $45 to $50 a ton. For recycling, it's the same thing."
He pointed out that trash disposal costs $105 per ton and the only landfill operating in Vermont is located in Coventry, which is over 100 miles away from Brattleboro. Recycling and composting for Brattleboro is done at the WSWMD.
Vermont's Universal Recycling Law will require that no organic materials go into the trash stream within the state starting in 2020.
"We're years ahead in action of that law for organics," said Kahler. "Right now in Brattleboro, recycling is mandatory. Both our local ordinance and state law says you can't put recycling into your trash. But the compost is voluntary."
He said he imagines Brattleboro will have an ordinance about separating the trash stream by 2020.
Garbage put out on the wrong day will be tagged with educational information on the schedule change. Any questions can be directed to Calista Carbonell in the Finance Director's Office. She can be reached at 802-251-8103.
When will people catch on?
"I don't think it will take long. It only took a couple weeks when we shifted to pay-as-you-throw a couple years ago for people to get fully onboard," Kahler said. "I think it will be the same thing here."
After surveying hundreds of people, he said probably 80 to 90 percent currently do not put a trash bag out every week. His household only puts out garbage once a month.
Contact Chris Mays at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-254-2311, ext. 273.