VERNON -- Town residents have cut the amount of trash they generate by more than 50 percent every week since July 1, and officials say its happening due to greatly increased recycling efforts.
In fact, the town's new "pay as you throw" trash system is working so well that hauler Triple T Trucking is pledging to switch recycling collection from a biweekly schedule to a weekly schedule as of Sept. 1.
The company will do so, owner Norman Mallory said, for no extra money because Triple T's routes have been running so smoothly.
"Everything is moving along so efficiently, we would like to give something back to the town," Mallory said. "With the time that we save both on trash and on recycling ... we'd like to offer every-week recycling for the same money."
With the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant scheduled to close by year's end, Vernon has made budget cuts. Among them was a decision to start a new program in which people pay according to how much trash they generate.
Previously, the town had paid Triple T for curbside pickup, and Vernon residents were not billed directly for that service. Now, residents must purchase specially marked trash bags priced at $2 for a 15-gallon bag and $3 for a 33-gallon bag.
As part of the switch, Vernon also implemented curbside recycling pickup for the first time. Triple T split the town in half for that service, meaning recyclables currently are collected at each household every two weeks.
Since there is a fee for trash bags but no charge for recyclable collection, recycling has become an easy way to save money. That has led to a huge boost in recycling rates.
Mike Courtemanche, who heads a volunteer Recycling Committee that has helped get the new programs started, said Vernon residents had generated an average of 15.25 tons of trash weekly over the past two years. Since pay as you throw began with the new fiscal year on July 1, the weekly trash weights have been 5.08 tons; 6.6 tons; 7.13 tons; 6.68 tons; and 6.96 tons.
"We have cut our trash by more than half," Courtemanche told the Reformer. "A reduction that high is surprising."
And Mallory reports that his employees have had little trouble collecting the much-higher numbers of recyclables.
"The material is coming in very clean," he told Selectboard members Monday night. "We don't have a great amount of contamination. It's running quite well. It's very efficient."
With routes taking less time than Triple T had budgeted, the company will begin collecting recyclables each week from every residence. That starts Sept. 1, and officials said they will send out an informational flier prior to the change.
"I am just amazed at how the town has responded to this," Selectboard Chairwoman Patty O'Donnell said, adding that, "it really ran so smoothly, right from the very beginning."
But there have been some growing pains. Officials and members of the Recycling Committee discussed several other details of pay as you throw Monday night, including:
-- Residents also have been doing much more composting via a Project C.O.W. bin at the town garage. In fact, the level of participation has prompted the introduction of a larger bin.
Prior to that change, the composting-collection site was overflowing, Recycling Committee member Peggy Frost told the Selectboard.
"It was a mess, I have to say," Frost said. "And it was so hot, that was another issue. It was smelly."
-- The size and weight of a lid on the larger composting bin has caused some complaints. So officials on Monday discussed placing two smaller bins at the site; together, they would provide the same composting capacity.
-- Courtemanche mentioned the need for more informational signs at the town garage, where roll-off recycling bins also have remained. With the "pay as you throw" transition happening so quickly, officials have pledged to keep those bins in place for fiscal year 2015.
-- Officials have noticed some illegal trash dumping at the recycling site. Bins have been repositioned to make better use of a surveillance camera on the property.
-- Officials issued a reminder that Vernon trash bags are available at Guilford Country Store, the Vernon recreation area, the town clerk's office and from the Vernon treasurer. The treasurer's office is open Monday through Thursday.
Mike Faher can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.