Automated trash, recycling pickup coming to West Newbury

By Paul Ploumis

WEST NEWBURY — Automated curbside trash and recycling collection is coming June 1, so the town’s Board of Health will be working on ways to help wary residents adopt the new system.

The automated removal plan, offered by G. Mello Disposal Corp. of Georgetown, is fast becoming an industry standard.

After a public hearing Tuesday, the Board of Health finalized language and a fee schedule for a new regulation outlining the change. This type of collection involves a one-person vehicle with a mechanical arm to empty town-provided, wheeled trash and recycling carts and return them to their original curbside position.

The system is considered efficient and environmentally conscious, and could save the town $20,000 per year in waste disposal costs, according to the board.

In May, Mello will deliver each household a free, 65-gallon, brown cart for trash and a free, 65-gallon, green cart for recycling. The carts are stacked and stored outside the highway barn on Pipestave Hill.

In response to concerns raised earlier this month that senior citizens or people with disabilities could have difficulty dealing with larger barrels, the board agreed to let residents opt for a 32-gallon cart from G. Mello instead if they request it. Regardless of size, residents would only get one free trash and one free recycling barrel.

“I would highly recommend they try the 65-gallon barrel first,” said board member Blake Seale. He said they would not be as onerous as some people fear. The carts are designed for weight distribution and have larger wheels.

Seale said he planned to use the 65-gallon barrel at his house. Once members of a household choose a smaller size, they would need to buy a 65-gallon barrel if they change their minds and want a larger one.

The new fee schedule says additional barrels of either size for trash or recyclables cost $100. Residents who decide they need an additional barrel for trash beyond the one assigned to their property must also purchase a sticker for the extra barrel at a cost of $120 annually.

No sticker is required for an additional recycling barrel, the board decided. The fee schedule runs from July 1 through June 30 each year, with stickers purchased after July 1 prorated by $10 per month.

The cost of a bulk sticker is $20 per item up to 25 pounds, with items over 25 pounds requiring two stickers. Under the previous contract, Mello took one bulk item per week for free, a service that Seale says is something other communities in the area did not offer.

Residents should contact the town’s Health Department to purchase stickers or to register for one of six scheduled dates for bulk pickup throughout the year.

Health Board member Tom Fahey corrected what he said is “a misconception” that this plan would decrease the volume of trash collected. Instead, he said a 65-gallon barrel is comparable to the current protocol of two 32-gallon trash barrels.

On average, people put out 30 pounds of trash per week, Fahey said, noting that the 65-gallon barrels can handle 40 or more pounds. The blue recycling bins the town now uses hold 18 gallons.

But Nathan Kelly, the only resident to comment at the virtual session this week, contends the plan substantially reduces services compared to what Mello provided before. Kelly said according to a waste reduction program implemented Jan. 1, 2010, residents could either use two 32-gallon or four 18-gallon bags, for a total of 72 gallons.

“Additionally, you’re creating an infinite reduction of curbside recycling, which is not currently limited, and a 100% reduction of bulk items, which are currently included, but you are eliminating and creating a new charge,” Kelly said. “In all three areas, this is a reduction of service, trash, recycling and bulk items.”

Seale noted that 18-gallon trash bags don’t actually hold 18 gallons. One to two gallons are lost by tying them shut, he said.

The Board of Health said residents should place carts at the curb with the hinge side away from the street and no more than 3 feet from the curb, 3 feet between the carts, and at least 4 feet from obstructions.

On dead-end streets, carts will only be allowed on one side of the road. Carts improperly placed — or with open covers due to overflow — will not be picked up. A few weeks grace period is in place initially for residents to get used to the new system.

“The Board of Health and G. Mello Corp will work together to make it as smooth as possible,” Fahey said, noting that the board would be “as receptive as it can be” to handling concerns on a case-by-case basis.

While he recognized the board won’t be able to make everyone happy, he reminded the public “it’s going to be a change for everybody.”

Designated contacts for concerns related to the new collection system: 978-363-1100, ext. 141; For all other calls, use ext. 118 or 119.