A plan to allow one “free” half bag has been introduced as one of the possible options for a proposed in both towns.
The option was introduced Tuesday night as the at Hamilton Town Hall to hear more about the proposal. About 20 members of the public filled the chairs in the Memorial Room to listen. A few of them were given a chance to speak, with many expressing skepticism and criticism of the plan while other expressing support.
Some new details were unveiled about how the plan may work out. Hamilton Town Manager Michael Lombardo said the existing plans call for a $1.75 charge for a large trash bag and $1 for a small bag. But in a two page memo distributed Tuesday, a chart outlining two possible pay-as-you-throw scenarios included one free small trash bag weekly with weekly single-stream recycling and organics collection.
Those details and others are included in a memo attached to this story as a PDF.
Later, Hamilton Selectman Marc Johnson said he scheduled a “working session” to go through all the details of the proposed plans, and other possible plans, with anyone from the public who is interested. It is scheduled for Friday at 9 a.m. at .
As part of the further details that were released, Lombardo also said that residents of a home valued at $450,000 who “aggressively recycle” could see their annual cost to throw out trash go down under the plan. About $125 in taxes from a home valued at $450,000 goes toward trash and that family could spend $80 per year on bags. Lombardo said the reduction could be made because the cost of trash pickup and disposal would be reduced from the town budget and included in a separate enterprise fund that keeps trash-related revenue and expenses separate.
“Every penny that is brought in from bags is money that does not come in from taxes,” Lombardo said.
A modest recycler in a $450,000 home would pay about $10 per year more and a household that did not recycle at all would see their cost increase significantly, Lombardo said.
The success of the program is also largely based on the inclusion of organics collection for all homes since, after paper, organics is the second heaviest material in trash. The towns pay $68 per ton to dispose of trash, according to Hamilton Finance Director Deborah Nippes-Mena. Since paying for trash disposal gives residents an incentive to recycle, which does not cost anything, that drives down the total cost of the town to dispose of trash, Mena said.
“What really makes the program work is the organics,” she said.
Lombardo said the state Department of Environmental Protection has “aggressive goals” for statewide recycling and the towns are trying to get ahead of possible future mandates. Current recycling rates are 28 percent in Hamilton and 34 percent in Wenham, Lombardo said, while recycling rates are 50-60 percent in Massachusetts communities with pay-as-you-throw programs in place.
Most of the discussion was among selectmen, but near the end of the 45 minute discussion some residents offered feedback.
Hamilton resident Bill Dery, who sits on the School Committee and Capital Management Committee, did get up to offer a quick presentation showing how he had calculated that although the savings would come to the town, the net cost to residents would likely go up.
“What you have done is increase my cash flow to the town,” Dery said.
Wenham Selectman Patrick Wilson said the first step should be establishing single-stream recycling – meaning all type of recyclable material would go together in one bin – and give people a recycling barrel.
Gretel Clark, who established the existing curbside compost collection program, said that if weekly single-stream recycling in a bin provided by the town increases recycling rates from 28 percent to 37 percent, for example, it would not save the town government enough money equal to the additional cost to have a recycling pickup weekly.
Former Hamilton Selectman Bill Bowler said that Selectmen’s examination should not be focused on the town's recycling rate and instead solely be on the cost to taxpayers through the combination of the tax rate and trash fee.
“That’s the only thing you should care about here,” Bowler said.
Greg Horner of Hamilton said that paying a per bag fee to throw out trash will surely influence people’s behavior and will lead them to throw out less trash.
“I think this is a smart program,” he said.