TOWNSEND -- Starting this summer, Townsend residents will see another reduction in the amount of trash they can put out for free curbside pickup.
The limit will be reduced from 96 gallons to 64 gallons beginning July 1 under the terms of a new 1-year contract extension with G.W. Shaw & Son Waste Disposal and Recycling that the town is in the process of finalizing.
Recycling, which is mandatory in Townsend, will remain unlimited for households.
Town Administrator Andrew Sheehan said that the lower limits on tonnage should result in lower costs for the town.
Under the new contract, the fixed "haul price" for the company to pick up the garbage will rise from $416,000 to $434,000, but the fee per ton will drop from $77.25 to $73. With fewer tons allowed, Sheehan said this will bring costs down overall.
"We're confident that the net of the new contract will result in a reduction, but it's hard to predict how much that reduction will be," Sheehan said.
The town is still planning on budgeting $625,000 for next year's trash pick-up, the same amount the town has allocated for the last five years, he said.
In 2005, Townsend offered residents free curbside pick-up for an unlimited amount of trash. In 2008, a six bag limit was instated, and since then the limit has been gradually decreased each year.
Between fiscal year 2012 and fiscal year 2013, when the limit was reduced from 124 to 99 gallons, the town's trash output decreased by 10 percent.
Health Administrator Carla Walter said that the new limits came from a combination of the Board of Health's concern for the town's environmental impact, and the desire to reduce trash hauling costs.
"We're paying an obscene amount of money for trash, and the tonnage is up there and needs to be decreased," she said.
About 90 percent of the towns in Massachusetts have a 64-gallon limit, she said.
Walter said the Board of Health has considered reducing the limit to 48 gallons in the future. This would make the town eligible for grants that could be used to buy toters for every household in town.
Toters are containers that trash bags can be placed into for easy pick-up by the trash company. They would be sized so that they could not contain more than the gallon limit, allowing for easy enforcement of the trash limit policy.
Also on the horizon is the possibility of moving to weekly recycling pick-up, rather than bi-weekly, which the town currently offers. Walter said the Board of Health hopes to eventually allow voters to decide whether they would like to incur an extra expense to have recycling picked up each week.
"The board wants to offer weekly recycling, but it's going to cost money and they don't know where they can get the money," Walter said.
Businesses cannot put out trash or recycling for curbside pick-up, but can use the Recycling Center for free, she said.
Last year, the town used money from a grant to hire a Recycling Enforcement Coordinator. The position was created to issue warnings and fines for those who do not obey trash limits, or those who mix trash and recycling.
In the six months since the position was filled, Walter said, compliance has increased. When initial enforcement letters were sent out on Nov. 1, 200 households received notices of non-compliance. Next week, the town will send out its second round of letters to less than two dozen households.
"That's how well the program is working," Walter said.
Those who continue to put out excess trash will be fined $100 per bag.
Irene Congdon, the chairwoman of the Recycling Committee and an employee of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, said that Townsend stands out in the region, with higher amounts of trash produced than Ashby, Ayer, Groton, Lunenburg and Pepperell.
She said that by focusing on recycling, donating clothes or stuffed animals, no matter their condition, or composting whenever possible, residents should be able to easily reduce their trash consumption under the new limit.
Her family of six used just one trash bag this week, she said, amounting to less than 20 gallons.
"It's not fair for the town to be paying for people with more trash," Congdon said.
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