Energy Board Examines Curbside Recycling
By: James Kinsella
On Monday evening, the Barnstable Renewable Energy Commission got a primer in a hybrid method of handling solid waste disposal and recycling.
James Mooney, health agent for the City of Attleboro, described how that city has reduced the size of its solid waste stream and increased the amount of recycling.
The town energy commission has been studying various options to reduce Barnstable’s solid waste stream in light of anticipated increased tipping costs at the SEMASS waste-to-energy plant in Rochester when the current contract expires in 2015.
To cut down on the solid waste stream, better protect the environment and save energy, the commission also is seeking to increase the town’s residential recycling rate, which the state Department of Environmental Protection calculated at 16 percent in 2008, below the statewide average for that year of 38 percent.
The Barnstable commission plans to make a recommendation to the town Comprehensive Financial Advisory Committee, which will analyze potential costs.
Working through the city’s board of health, Attleboro uses a combination of curbside pickup, an annual municipal fee for households, one free 36-gallon barrel or bag of rubbish a week, an option for additional “pay-as-you-throw” bags for rubbish, and mostly free recycling.
Mr. Mooney said the city’s approach, which was instituted in 2005 in response to a sharp increase in its tipping fee, made an immediate impact in significantly cutting into Attleboro’s solid waste stream and increasing recycling.
“We had to get the tonnage down,” he said. “We had to get the recycling up.”A year later, the city’s solid waste tonnage had dropped from 17,162 tons to 11,785, a decrease of 31 percent.
Not only that, the solid waste tonnage has continued to fall, dropping to 9,626 for fiscal year 2011.
Recycling tonnage, meanwhile, jumped in the same year from 2,974 to 3,993, an increase of 34 percent.
The amount of recycling tonnage also continued to move upward, reaching 4,464 in fiscal year 2011.
At present, the city charges households an annual rubbish user fee of $178.32, which is billed in quarterly installments.
The fee supports the cost of the rubbish and recycling program.
Residents can opt out of the program, but must produce copies of contracts for rubbish removal and recycling with a private hauler to do so.
Mr. Mooney said he considers a pure pay-as-you-throw system, where residents pay for every bag of trash they dispose of, as too burdensome.
As it is, he said, most families only need about five pay-as-you-throw bags per year.
The bags cost $1.50 each.
Attleboro mainly enforces its recycling system by monitoring the haulers, who are licensed by the city’s board of health.
The haulers are fined if they are found to be bringing in solid waste containing recyclables.
According to state law, waste containing recyclables cannot be taken to an incinerator if it includes recyclables.
Moreover, the board of health can refuse to license rubbish haulers if they are found to be breaking that state law.
The city’s curbside recycling not only includes the standard fare such as newspaper, glass, aluminum and steel cans, and plastics #1 to 7, but metals, appliances, televisions and computers.
The program also will pick up one large item a week, such as sofas and mattresses.Speaking of the large items, Mr. Mooney said, “You never see anything like this in Attleboro on the side of the road, because it’s all picked up.”