Published Date Written by Michael KitchLACONIA — "This is a waste of our time," declared Councilor Henry Lipman (Ward 3) last night after Archie St. Hilaire of Bestway Disposal Services outlined two options he said would spare costs of collecting transporting and disposing of trash by increasing recycling. "There are no savings. You're not presenting a solution. You're just presenting more revenue for you."
St. Hilaire told the council that either an automated collection system or a pay-as-you-throw (PAYT) program offered the most promising means of reducing solid waste costs. He explained that both provided incentives to recycle by limiting the amount of trash collected at the curbside.
With the automated system each of the 5,200 stops where trash is collected would be provided, by either the city or the contractor, with a pair of toters, one of 64 gallons or 90 gallons for trash and another smaller container for recyclables at a cost of about $50 apiece. Trucks fitted with a robotic arm would empty the toters. St. Hilaire described the system as safe , efficient and convenient.
St. Hilaire said that although the trucks require only one operator and can make a third more stops in day, collection costs would not be reduced because the trucks cost more to purchase and maintain. However, he said the system would increase recycling to between 30-percent and 32-percent of the solid waste stream, reducing disposal costs by about a third.
Lipman pointed out that the savings in solid waste costs would initially be more than offset by the investment in trucks and toters and any genuine savings would only be realized once that cost was retired.
"It sound like you need pay-as-you-throw," St. Hilaire said, noting that the program generally boost recycling to near 40-percent of the total volume of solid waste. He said that in order to reach this rate recyclables would have to be collected weekly, increasing the annual cost of collection from $125,000 to $215,000.
PAYT increases recycling by requiring residents to place the trash and garbage they do not recycle in a special-marked plastic bag purchased at local retail outlets. Trash not contained in a marked bag is left at the curb."When you make somebody buy a bag for a dollar or two they get educated in a hurry," St. Hilaire said. The program shifts the cost of disposing of trash from property taxpayers to bag sales, ensuring that households pay only for the waste they generate.
But, Lipman insisted that the cost of weekly collection would consume any savings. He repeatedly asked why, although the mix of trash and recyclables would change but the total volume of both would not, the additional cost of weekly collection was necessary.
"We've been kicking this can down the road for three years," said Councilor Bob Hamel (Ward 5), after St. Hilaire had left the meeting. "I don't see how we're going to get there without doing pay-as-you-throw."
"You just heard tonight if we do that we'll save nothing," Lipman shot back.
Remarking that the council was not going to solve the problem at the meeting, City Manager Scott Myers said that together with staff he would would prepare an analysis of the several options, complete with projected costs and savings, for the next meeting of the council.