Non-subsidized year begins at Pepperell transfer station

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PEPPERELL — Residents who purchased new transfer station stickers in time for last Friday’s April 1 season opener found the station reorganized with better-defined receptacles, more workers on the job, a new price structure and a renewed emphasis on avoiding old problems.

Although they are still a good deal compared to the cost of private waste-haulers, transfer station sticker prices have gone up. Increasingly tough Department of Environmental Protection regulations and waste inspections also make it more important than ever to recycle correctly, according to Highway Department and Transfer Station Superintendent Peter Shattuck.

”First, you need to be a customer,” Shattuck said. “That means you must have a current sticker on your vehicle. No sticker, no transfer. They need to be on by April 1.”

Second, new symbols have been placed on recycling bins and examples of acceptable plastic containers have been hung beside the open bays. Unfortunately things still end up in the wrong place either from confusion or lack of concern about following the rules.

One sign reads, “Mixed Paper: If you can rip, it put it here.”

Pretty self-explanatory, Shattuck said, except that not everything that can rip can be thrown in. Styrofoam, for example, cannot be placed with mixed paper. Neither can paper towels nor tissue paper.

”There are people who take a bag out of a kitchen barrel and throw the whole thing in mixed paper. Why? Because it’s free,” Shattuck said. “It isn’t paper, it’s trash and not a recyclable. Use common sense,” he urged. “If you’re unsure, see the attendant. That’s why I’ve hired another employee. Household garbage is (regular) trash.

”We take everything,” Shattuck said, “Motor oil, paint, lawn mowers, bicycles, televisions, computers, washing machines, etc., and each carries a separate fee.

Private waste companies also charge extra for bulky or hard to get rid of items, but some items accepted at the transfer station might not be taken by private firms. Private companies cost more, but may be more convenient.

Take, for example, a person who throws away two 39-gallon bags of regular trash per week. Transfer station bag tags are sold five for $8 or $1.60 each. Two bags per week equals $3.20 or $46.40 per year. Add to that the minimum $49 sticker cost — $25 for seniors over 60 — and the annual cost is less than $100.

Private haulers charge an average of $35 to $37 per week regardless of the number of bags, which is over $400 per year.

There are drawbacks to using the transfer station. Residents must haul their own trash, and weekend waits can be as long as two hours. Shattuck is hopeful that hiring Paul Pillsbury will speed things up.

”We’re trying to be available at a reasonable cost. It’s like a company. Those are my customers,” Shattuck said. “If we charge too much, people will move the private haulers. One of the reasons a mail-in sticker is $49 and $55 at Town Hall is an attempt to cut down the lines.”

Until this year, taxpayers subsidized the operation of the station with $60,000. That was cut to $30,000 last year and zero this year by town meeting at the recommendation of the Finance Committee. Fees have been increased.

”We’re trying to be more self-sufficient, similar to a full enterprise fund,” Shattuck said. “We’re phasing in price increases slowly. Prices will eventually level off. The transfer station’s construction is almost paid for.”

One money-maker for the town is a newly-negotiated contract with FCR Inc., of Saugus, under the Department Approved Recycling Program in which the town is reimbursed for clean loads of recyclables such as cardboard.

The Department of Environmental Protection is increasing its list of recyclable items that cannot go into landfills and can be used to make other products. It has stepped up spot checks on waste-haulers and transfer stations.

Pepperell hauls clean loads to Saugus using its own tractor trailer and is reimbursed for them. Because the town is a guaranteed customer, the normal $1,100 received is increased. A single flashlight battery in a load of cardboard, for example, will cause the rejection of the entire truckload.

“They’ll take it, but they won’t pay us. (It’s) another reason to be careful about what is recycled,” Shattuck said.

”We’ve made a lot of changes regarding accepting metal, bicycles and tire rims etc., and demolition debris,” he said. “We have to adjust to all these changes (in regulations). It’s the law and one of the reasons the third man was hired to help people.”

The scale used to weigh truckloads of material before and after dumping in order to determine a fee is located in the metal house uphill from the recycle bins.

”It’s where the men are, and that’s where people with truck loads should go,” said Shattuck.

This year, the Finance Committee recommended voters approve the acquisition of everything Shattuck asked for the transfer station — a used trailer and compaction tractor, etc.

”The Capital Programs Committee and Finance Committee have treated us well, and I truly appreciate their efforts,” Shattuck said. “But then we’ve been deferred for seven years. The old tractor, for example, was worn out when it went to the transfer station in 2004.”