Wenham may join Hamilton in a "pay-as-you-throw" trash program designed to encourage residents to increase recycling.
And the two towns will explore the possibility of bringing the school district and some businesses - which have commercial trash collection contracts - into a combined system, operated by Hiltz Waste Disposal.
Communities that have pay-as-you-throw programs charge residents for the collection of regular trash based on the amount they throw away. Residents are not charged for recycled materials, which creates an economic incentive for residents to recycle more and generate less waste.
Traditionally, residents pay for waste collection through property taxes or a fixed fee, regardless of how much or how little trash they throw away. Pay-as-you-throw programs treat trash services more like electricity, gas and water utilities where households pay a variable rate depending on the amount of the service they use.
None of the specific fees that would possibly be charged were discussed.
“Wenham is excited about this prospect,” Wenham Town Administrator Jeff Chelgren said Wednesday at a meeting of the Capital Management Committee, a tri-party group that is seeking ways to collaborate and combine services.
Wenham Board of Selectmen Chairman Molly Martins agreed with Chelgren's enthusiasm.
“Wenham does not have be a trailer on this,” she said.
The Hamilton Board of Selectmen already has the authority from a past Town Meeting to adopt a pay-as-you-throw system. And Hamilton Town Manager Michael Lombardo is preparing a white paper outlining how the program might work, its benefits and drawbacks. He said the paper, which should be completed by the end of this week, could include Wenham in its projections of savings and operational costs.
“The pay-as-you-throw has to happen because without it you don't get a robust participation in the recycling program,” Lombardo said.
He told the CMC that the state Department of Environmental Protection may soon require towns to move to a pay-as-you-throw program.
Hiltz is also interested in the program, which would include using an automated truck and standard rolling bins that are picked up by mechanical arms on the truck. The system would allow Hiltz to staff the trucks with one person instead of two. Also it would reduce the workmen's compensation claims the waste disposal company has because a person would not have to lift the trash into the truck, Lombardo said.
Lombardo expects to meet with Hiltz - the existing hauler for both towns - soon to discuss how the town or towns might work with the company.
The DEP is also interested in the towns acquiring an anaerobic digestion system, Lombardo said.
An anaerobic digestion system breaks down biodegradable material in the absence of oxygen to manage waste and release energy.
Lombardo said some estimates he has heard are that the towns could earn $1.5 million to $2 million in additional revenues with an anaerobic digestion system. Town Leaders have been examining the possibility of .
The pay-as-you-throw program may be discussed at the joint Boards of Selectmen meeting on Aug. 23.