Brattleboro officials prepare for 'Pay-As-You-Throw'
BRATTLEBORO -- In June, 2011 Brattleboro citizens voted down a Pay-As-You-Throw trash system, but it's back to stay this time.
"There will be no vote this time around," said Moss Kahler, Brattleboro's recycling coordinator.
The Vermont legislature passed Act 148 which mandates a unit based price system -- PAYT -- throughout the state. The law states that by July 1, 2015, charges for the collection of municipal solid waste from a residential customer for disposal must be based on the volume or weight of the waste collected.
Kahler, previously contracted by the town to increase the recycling rate and to institute a curbside composting program, has been hired to oversee the development and implementation of PAYT. The Brattleboro Selectboard appointed a committee to assist in putting the program together. Members include Carl Hirth, Jane Southworth, Peter Gaskill, Bob Spencer and Interim Town Manager Patrick Moreland. They have been meeting bi-weekly since mid-July.
The program has been mandated by the Vermont legislature with several goals in mind -- all of them realized by reducing the amount of trash and organics that ends up in landfills and incinerators. This will extend the life of landfills, decrease air pollution from trash incinerators, decrease the generation of methane gas, a powerful greenhouse gas, and reduce the need for new disposal facilities.
For some the motive to decrease their trash is environmental. For all, the benefit is monetary as the mechanism is the requirement to purchase special PAYT bags. Starting no later than July 1 next year, all curbside trash must be in a PAYT bag that will be purchased from local vendors.
"We don't yet know the particulars, but as soon as we do we will make it public," said Kahler.
Numerous surrounding towns already have PAYT in place -- Vernon started several weeks ago; Hinsdale, N.H., as well as Gill and Greenfield, Mass., have had PAYT for many years. Some towns have special plastic bags while others sell a sticker or adhesive band that must be affixed to a bag of the resident's choosing. Usually two sizes of bags are available -- 30-33 and 13-15 gallon. The cost per bag varies from town to town and this is one major item that the committee must determine.
Recently committee members have been weighing a sampling of bags from surrounding PAYT towns. This data will be considered in determining what can be expected in Brattleboro.
"Our big advantage is our Curbside Compost program," said Kahler. "After recycling is removed over half of the weight left is food scraps and organic waste. When that is put into the compost cart next to nothing is left in the trash -- primarily filmy plastic."
Once PAYT is in place the revenue generated by the sale of PAYT bags will pay for the trash disposal and the cost of picking it up. The less a household puts at the curb the less they will pay.
"I suspect many households will go two weeks or more before they put out a single PAYT trash bag," said Kahler. "The town is really in a different situation than it was four years ago. We have increased our recycling rate dramatically and we have curbside compost. We now have a solid foundation upon which we can build a successful PAYT program."
Apartment buildings with five or more units currently do not have their trash pickup up by the town and will not be included in the curbside PAYT program. Landlords and the local haulers they hire to service those apartments will still be required by Act 148 to institute a unit based pricing system. The PAYT committee plans on speaking with landlords and local haulers to answer their questions and assist as they can.
In the coming months the town will hold informational meetings and at least one townwide mailing is planned.
TALK TO US
If you'd like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please email us. We also welcome letters to the editor for publication; you can do that by filling out our letters form and submitting it to the newsroom.