Sandwich Transfer Station Looks At Options
By: Mary Stanley
With the town’s cost to dispose of solid waste set to increase substantially by 2015, officials have been at work researching options for minimizing the financial strains placed on the town and its residents.
Town Manager George H. Dunham told the board of selectmen last night that the "sweetheart deal" that the town signed 20 years ago with SEMASS, a waste to energy plant out of Rochester is set to expire and the current $35 per ton fee is going to increase to $90 per ton by 2015.
"If you think things are expensive now, wait four years," he said.
Director of the Department of Public Works Paul S. Tilton agreed.
"We have been fortunate over the past 15 to 20 years and had a pretty good rate. The time is coming when we are going to have to pay the market rate," he said.
To that end, Mr. Dunham and Mr. Tilton have been exploring the option of a "pay as you throw" program with Waste Zero out of South Carolina. He said 100 out of the 350 towns in the state have already gone to some kind of pay-as-you-throw program.
Last night, John Craig and Robert Zirlin of Waste Zero gave a presentation to selectmen about the various options and the benefits that the town could realize from signing on.
Mr. Craig told the board that this program, where residents are only allowed to bring trash into the transfer station in customized trash bags specifically made for the town of Sandwich at a rate set by the board of selectmen, is a fairer option than the flat transfer station sticker fee.
"Whatever you throw out you pay for," he said. “No more.”
No decision has yet been made as to the cost of the bags.
Although the town can opt to continue charging a sticker fee along with the fee for the bags, selectman F. Randal Hunt said he would want to try to find a way to set the price of the bags so that households that only throw out one bag of trash per week will not have to pay more than the current $110 annual fee.
Mr. Craig went on to tell the board that the pay-as-you-throw program significantly reduces the amount of waste going into the transfer station, which will help reduce the town’s cost to dispose of it now and into the future. At the same time, he said, this program also encourages recycling.
"It is convenient and user-friendly and it reinforces the right behavior. When you pay for the bags, the only things that go into the bag are trash. Recyclables are recycled," he said.
He said towns that have adopted this program report an average 43 percent decrease in their solid waste.
"Duxbury had a 50 percent decrease," he said.
Mr. Zurlin told the board that if the town chooses to adopt this program, the revenues and savings generated could range from $583,000 per year to $726,000 per year based on the tipping fees that the town is paying now.
At a minimum, he said, his company could guarantee that the town would generate $428,000 per year just on the sale of the bags.
He said there would be no initial capital investment and the town and Waste Zero would share in the revenue generated from the bag sales, with the town taking 85 percent and the company taking 15 percent.
The bags would be sold at local retailers that the town would have to sign agreements with and residents would purchase the bags for whatever price the board sets.
"I've seen this [program] work before but it was 25 years ago in Germany. We're a little bit behind," said selectman Dana P. Barrette.
Chairman of the board of selectmen John G. Kennan Jr. pointed out that the board is only in preliminary discussions about this option and will not be voting on the matter any time soon.
"In exploring this idea, there is still a lot more to do and it is going to take time. There are legal and financial issues that still need to be worked out," Mr. Dunham said.
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