Townshend to issue trash bags July 1

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TOWNSHEND >> Theoretically, Townshend has a leg up when it comes to adjusting to the state's new waste-management law, which takes effect later this year.

Adoption of a "pay as you throw" trash system is part of that law, and Townshend residents already are required to pay for each bag of garbage they deposit at the town's transfer station.

The problem is, not everyone is paying. So town officials, in an attempt to cover their disposal costs and comply with upcoming state regulations, are making a change: As of July 1, residents will be required to buy town-approved trash bags at a cost of $12.50 for a package of five.

"The biggest change is, they're going to have to buy their bags from the town," Selectboard Chairwoman Kathy Hege said. "And there is going to be some resistance to that, because they're used to, now, being able to go out to the (transfer station) when it is open and pay in cash. And that's going to stop. They're going to have to put their trash in the appropriate-colored bags that the town has purchased."

The shift is attributed to Act 148, Vermont's new mandatory-recycling law. The statute includes new rules that take effect incrementally over the next five years: For instance, "mandated recyclables" such as metal cans, glass, plastic containers and cardboard are banned from landfill disposal as of July 1.

Eventually, it also will be illegal to throw away leaf and yard debris as well as food scraps. More information about the law and the schedule for recycling mandates is available online at www.anr.state.vt.us/dec/wastediv/solid/act148.htm.

The law also requires municipalities to implement what the state calls a "variable-rate pricing system" by July 1. In other words, residents must begin to pay by volume or weight for the trash they produce — a system also called "pay as you throw."

In Townshend, the problem apparently is that not enough people are paying as they throw at the town's transfer station. The current charge is supposed to be $2 per bag.

"We are currently averaging 941 bags of trash per month being disposed of, but we're only collecting $2 a bag for 840 (bags) or so. There's a shortfall there, partly because people do drop things off without paying for them at all," former Selectboard member Carole Melis told Town Meeting attendees last week.

The Selectboard appointed a committee "to meet and look at the various options out there," Melis said. The resulting plan was what officials deemed "the fairest way of doing it": Starting July 1, all household trash must be disposed of using town-approved, 33-gallon bags.

The bags will be available in packages of five priced at $12.50. That means the cost of disposing of a bag of trash in Townshend is rising from $2 to $2.50, but officials emphasized that the new bags won't be available for purchase individually.

The five-packs will be available at four locations — Harmonyville Store; Riverbend Market; West Townshend Country Store and Cafe; and Town Hall.

While "pay as you throw" is not a new concept in Townshend, Hege told the Reformer that she still anticipates some growing pains when the change is implemented this summer.

"It's just the structure of having to buy the bags in certain places and having to prepay before you take them to the (transfer station)," she said.

Former Selectboard member Dale West, speaking to Town Meeting voters last week, warned that this year's change may be the first of several. He believes Townshend still has a "space issue" at the transfer station, and he also noted the other recycling mandates that take effect in coming years.

"The bag system is going to make us somewhat compliant and buy us a little more time, but there's still several big issues coming," West said.

Contact Mike Faher at 802-254-2311, ext. 275.


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