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."