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Town Weighs Changes to Trash Removal, Recycling

Officials this week discussed moving to an automated program.

Residents who have their trash collected in Westwood may notice a few changes to the collection program this spring.

Officials this week discussed the town's current trash collection contract, which expires in March, and how to improve upon it for the upcoming year. 

The town spent about $1.2 million on the five-year contract that is about to expire, and a new contract would involve a 3.5 percent escalation rate and a 15 percent increase in the prevailing wage, or labor cost. 

"That's a significant increase," Westwood Department of Public Works Director Vicki Quiram explained to the Westwood Board of Selectmen Monday night.

One possibility of reducing the price, according to Quiram, was to add a restriction on the number of trash barrels used to reduce trash and help boost recycling in town. But the idea that gained most favor from the selectmen was to move to a fully-automated collection program. 

"We should go to automated," said Selectmen Clerk Nancy Hyde. "The time has come for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is it saves us a lot of money."

Added Selectmen Third Member Phil Shapiro, "I would agree. If you think about the financial impact over time, I think this is preferable."

The current contract involves the uses of manual garbage trucks, and the transition to the new contract would involve trucks that are automated and include mechanical parts to pick up and empty trash barrels, as opposed to a worker doing so manually.  

The automated trucks would not require the use of that extra manual worker, which means a significant decrease in costs incurred for worker's compensation and insurance. 

"They're in a much lower rate bracket when they're not on the back of the truck," said Claire Sullivan, a member of the Westwood Environmental Action Committee Monday night. 

The fully-automated service contract would also include one 64-gallon trash barrel for each home to use for weekly trash pickup. The town would provided the barrels as part of the program, and residents could pay for an extra trash barrel upon request for $150 each. 

"People could buy extra carts if they have extra trash they want to put out, or they could buy an extra cart for recycling," Quiram said. 

Recycling, meanwhile, would continue on a bi-weekly basis, and residents would be provided with a 96-gallon recycling barrel as well.

The board also considered the possibility of moving from a bi-weekly recycling pickup to a weekly program, but said there isn't enough evidence to warrant such a change, based on data Quiram calculated. Moreover, the incremental cost of weekly recycling would be about $100,000.

"I don't think we're ready for that yet," Hyde said. "It's not worth providing that service if it didn't reap significant benefit."

paula from Westwood February 17, 2012 at 12:19 PM
I hope that you factor in how people will respond to these new 64 gallon trash containers. Yes, I know both Dedham and Norwood are using the automated systems with mechanical arms. How successful have their programs been? What do people do if all their trash or recycling does not fit? Are they going to throw it in the woods or on the side of the road? I understand that the trash situation is in the exploratory phase, but March is less than two weeks away. Every spring I see a crew of volunteers picking up an abundance of trash from the woods along Hartford Street. I, too, would like to keep costs down, but there appears to be missing information from this article.
Chris February 17, 2012 at 12:42 PM
My biggest concern would be losing the sanitation worker that we've had for years. He is reliable, timely, polite and awesome with my young children who sprint to the window to watch him. They wave like crazy to try to get his attention and the days they catch his eye they are truly thrilled. Despite this weekly ritual he NEVER looks up to the house or at the window - he completely respects our privacy and there is no creepy factor there. He also never drives over our lawn, a frequent problem with plows, the mail truck and the recycling truck, since we live on a corner lot. In our neighborhood the sanitation worker is working by himself but it sounds like that isn't typical. I would rather pay more and invite quality people into our community. I hope if we make this change that we will find the same high quality service that I have received up until this point.
Gail from westwood February 17, 2012 at 12:43 PM
I live off Gay Street and very often see cars drive up to a home and drop,off trash. It is often early morning when few are around. This is on the Dedham line and I assume these are Dedham residents who have reached their one can full limit, and don't want to pay $150 for a second trash can. Will we be doing the same??
WW Resident February 17, 2012 at 01:24 PM
I agree with Chris - Our sanitation worker (Rocco) is great - provides the highest level of service to the town and is very dependable. I agree with Paula too that the logistics are a big concern, most residents require more than one large barrel for their weekly trash removal. You also have weeks during the year (after Christmas, spring cleaning time, etc.) were two barrels might not even be enough, and these are residents who recycle heavily. Is there residual litter/debris in Dedham and Norwood neighborhoods after automated trash pickup? Great to know the Selection and DPW are working to keep costs down, but it's obvious there will be a lot of concern from residents moving to an automated system. A FAQ section on the DPW site would be helpful to alleviating these concerns, mostly of which are driven because of lack of information of this automated removal system. I still think it's a shame that we might be losing the services of Rocco.
Matt Perkins (Editor) February 17, 2012 at 01:38 PM
I'd like to thank everyone for weighing in here, I will definitely do all I can to keep everyone in town updated on what takes place and what changes are coming. Feel free to send me any other thoughts or keep the comments coming!
Lisa Savini February 17, 2012 at 01:57 PM
What is the recycling provision? Would a 64 gal. cart be provided for that in addition to the one for trash? I sincerely hope it is not the case that each household would have to pay $150. for a bin in order to continue recycling!
Carol Morrison Deutsch February 17, 2012 at 01:59 PM
I would suggest the town consider automating the recycling pickup rather than the trash pickup - provide a 64 gallon recycling barrel and pick up recycling weekly. I do not know the exact statistics, but I moved from Boston a few years ago where we had automated recycling weekly and manual trash pick up weekly, and speaking only for myself and those I know, our trash amounts were reduced significantly. I personally went from an average of 3 trash barrels per week to one, while filling my recycling barrel weekly.
seliot February 17, 2012 at 02:20 PM
Recycle, recycle, recycle! The more that goes into your recycling bin/barrel, the more that comes out of the waste stream. The less that goes into the waste stream, the less tons we have to pay for removal from the town. Costs should go DOWN! I don't need a 64 gallon trash cart for more trash. I need a 64 gallon recycling cart for my recyclables! I have a family of three and I fill approximately half of a 33 gallon barrel with trash each week. But on those weeks with recycling, I have a 45 gallon cart full of recyclables and it's packed! The automation is great and should be followed through on, but let's get the bins sized accordingly. Large for recyclables and small for trash. That's how they do it in Dedham.
seliot February 17, 2012 at 02:25 PM
It's a little bit more than entertaining your children. It's about keeping costs down while doing our part in protecting the environment.
Matt Perkins (Editor) February 17, 2012 at 02:35 PM
Lisa and Carol - I just spoke to the DPW to clarify, and I added a new note into the story. The automated program would include 96-gallon recycling barrels as well; barrels would be provided to residents and they could then choose to pay for an extra barrel at $150/ea.
Matt Perkins (Editor) February 17, 2012 at 02:36 PM
Chris and WW Resident - Just got off the phone with the DPW, and they are working on an agreement with Waste Management to keep the current sanitation workers and staff on board moving forward, and I am told that those employees are energetic about being trained on the new automated pickup. Be glad to talk more about it! Send me a note at mattp@patch.com if you have any other questions or continue them in the comments thread.
Christine February 17, 2012 at 04:58 PM
First, I wanted to say it is heartening to see Westwood residents looking out for others' jobs. My main reason for responding, however, is to agree with those supporting additional recycling in town. We are a family of five and can easily stick to one trash barrel most weeks, but there are times when I have had to put recycling in the trash because our recycle bins and recycle barrel were full before the 2-week cycle was up. The town has made recycling much easier than it used to be, and I think they would find recycling would increase if it was picked up as frequently as trash.
Vicki Quiram February 17, 2012 at 08:10 PM
I like the idea of an FAQ on the DPW website to answer these questions as well as others that will need to be addressed. I will do my best to get it going in the next few weeks. All of these issues have been carefully considered and, working with the Patch, Westwood's Environmental Action Committee and on our website, we can provide answers and hopefully clarify your understanding. There may be other issues and we are happy to give them consideration. Keep the questions coming. Thank you! Vicki Quiram, Public Works Director
Jan Galkowski February 18, 2012 at 03:42 AM
I was at this meeting and a number of facts were not clearly represented in this article, and the Selectmen and DPW Director were misquoted. For example, the $1.2 million is PER YEAR. (Yes, trash is expensive, recycling less so, per ton.) The figure includes pickup of recycling. Also, the extra barrel costs are $150 PER YEAR, not one time, and the trash containers do not belong to the homeowner. Also, the program will go into effect on July 1st. Also, the clinching fact which appeared to convince the Selectmen to impose a charge for the extra container is that apparently some residents put trash out for relatives from Pay As You Throw towns, which, of course, Westwood residents pay for in taxes and fees. Yes, reduction in trash and recycling is the way to go long term by more judicious buying and avoiding excesssive packaging. A 64 gallon container should suffice for a family of eight. A lot of trash is vegetable food waste which can be composted. Hale Reservation has information about composting. Finally, a good strict enforcement with fines should deter out of towners from illegal dumping. State law says these can be fined up to $1,000 but it takes Selectmen and administrative action. This can be done by police but typically requires enforcement officers from, say, Board of Health. Most people leave telltales in their trash which can be used to find and fine them.
seliot February 18, 2012 at 03:52 AM
Mr. Perkins, Thank you for talking to the DPW and enlightning us as to what the thought process is going on in the DPWs head. My word, this is the discussion the DPW is having? Talking to Waste Management about ensuring they keep as many people as possible employed! This is a joke, right? This should be a Contract to be put out to bid with the emphasis on getting the best price for maintaining curbside pickup. Also, about minimizing trash and maximizing recycling. If automation is cheaper, what does anybody in there right mind thing we should do? Westwood residents are not here to subsidize Waste Management. Put a Contract out to bid rather than negotiating an extention. Or, entend the Contract for three or six months until the DPW can get a new one out to bid. I don't believe the response you got. But please, pass this along. And it wouldn't hurt to talk to the Selectmen and the Town Administrator and get their imput. WOW! Embarrissing at best.
Claire Sullivan February 18, 2012 at 03:56 AM
Paula, I was unable to reply to your post directly, but the current contract will be extended through June, and many details will be worked out. I spoke at the Selectmen's meeting about this (Claire), and while I am not a Town Official, I am on WEAC, and am also familiar with many towns' programs through my work. Residents in towns whose trash is even restricted to even 32 gallons a week tend to figure out how to reduce their trash to that level. When not possible, easily identified overflow bags are generally provided at a nominal fee to cover the cost of disposal (usually about $1.50/bag), and thisw possibility was discussed. Illegal dumping can be answered with a fine of up to $1000. Generally, people who are careless enough to leave their trash on someone else's curb leave a telltale envelope or prescription bottle. Trash disposal is expensive, (about $400K last year just to burn it), and Westwood generates a lot more per household than some of its neighbors. WEAC will be providing guidance on easy ways to reduce trash and increase recycling in the coming months. Here's one: To reduce the space plastic containers take in your recycling bin, empty, squish and re-cap before recycling. More will fit in your recycling container that way!
paula from Westwood February 19, 2012 at 01:25 PM
Thank you Claire. I am all for recycling! In this vein, would you please address the more than 200 styrofoam lunch trays that are thrown into the trash daily throughout the school year - NOT recycled - at the Elementary schools. I can only speak for the one elementary school my children attend so the number is far greater than I represent here. If you want to keep trash costs down, here is a huge issue that needs to be addressed. Why aren't the styrofoam trays recycled? What type of "disposable" trays are used at the Middle School and the High School? These styrofoam trays are being burned in the trash and are part of your $400k burning costs. I actually think the costs run deeper than just households. How the schools manage trash adds to your costs. Thank you for your help and your efforts!
Parker February 23, 2012 at 08:31 PM
One barrel is absurd. Expecting a large family with kids to produce refuse that would fit in the same size container as a retired couple or single person is not realistic. Nor either is the proposed price of $150 per barrel. Recycling is a complete waste of resources. Westwood should get smart about this and just give it up. Study after study show zero net impact to environment of hauling around recycbles, using energy and creating pollution to recycle what should simply be thrown out. Contrary to popular myth, landfills are not filling up and we have plenty of room for waste. The only thing that recycling does is make people feel better about themselves.

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