South Hadley preps for new cart-based trash system

South Hadley Town Hall  04-12-2023

South Hadley Town Hall 04-12-2023

By EMILEE KLEIN

Staff Writer

Published: 02-27-2024 11:10 AM

Modified: 02-27-2024 6:40 PM


SOUTH HADLEY — The town is considering options for a new cart-based trash system next fiscal year now that a contract with the company operating the green bag pay-as-you-throw service is set to expire on June 30.

“So we have to change our service because the vendors have all consolidated, there’s really only a handful,” Town Administrator Lisa Wong said at the Tri-Board meeting last week. “They’re no longer going to manually pick up our green bags and its forcing us to go to a cart system.”

The green bag system, in used for a dozen years, charges residents based on the number of bags used. Garbage trucks come biweekly to pick up trash and recycling at the curbside, which requires manual labor. The town’s recycling system is dual stream, meaning paper and cardboard are separated from metal, glass and plastic prior to pickup. Director of Public Works John Broderick said trash companies across the country are moving away from manual systems and instead turning to automated trash and recycling carts.

Currently, the town is in a one-year extension of its three-year contract with Republic Services, but the company has rejected the town’s proposal of a second yearlong extension with a 4% price increase. Instead, Republic Services wants a new five-year contract that would increase rates by 6.75% each year, nearly doubling current trash expenses.

Wong said in light of the extreme jump, the town will go out to bid for a new company.

The DPW and Select Board will draft a new trash plan in the next month, considering both the sizes of carts, amount of carts per household, frequency of pickup and price. Wong said there are three standard sizes of carts: 32 gallon, 64 gallon and 96 gallon.

Normally towns will decide on a single size for all the households, but not every resident can fill a 96-gallon cart nor wants to pay for the increased cost of disposal, especially if normally their trash could fit into a 32-gallon cart.

“So there is equity issues we’re trying to figure out, like exactly how we want to design that system for bidding,” Wong said

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Similarly, switching from dual-stream recycling to single-stream recycling can increase cost and environmental impact.

The new system, regardless of cart size or pickup frequency, will cost more than the current green bag system. The town must fund at least one trash and recycling cart for each household, adding to the upfront expenses. Since trash carts are larger and hold more material, the new system will be more expensive to operate.

Right now, residents pay a $125 annual trash fee, plus the expense of buying green bags at a grocery store.

“It’s going to be a change, but I promise we’ll make the best decision cost-wise that we can. It’s not going to be easy though,” Broderick said

While the green bag system remains unpopular, Wong said it is the most equitable and environmentally-friendly option because residents pay based on the number of green bags filled rather than a set rate for large trash cart a resident may or may not fill. Extra green bags are available for those who require them, but the residents will need to drop these bags off at the landfill themselves.

“How we charge the residents is going to change a little also. You’ll find out more at the end of March,” Broderick said. “It’s essential services. It’s not something we can really skimp on.”

Emilee Klein can be reached at eklein@gazettenet.com.