HAMILTON — Composting is down. But Hamilton officials believe they might have pinpointed the cause of the problem.
The Hamilton Waste Reduction Committee was before the Board of Selectmen on June 3, proposing the town return trash pickup to an every-other-week format to increase composting.
Selectmen responded by voting to establish a task force to bring the matter to the special Town Meeting in the fall.
WRC Chairman Gretel Clark reported composting went down when trash was picked up weekly, with more refuse being put in the trash for which the town pays a hauler to remove at $68 a ton.
“You wouldn’t think it would, but it does,” she said.
The composting fee is $45-a-ton, while the recycling fee has varied from $44-90. WRC member Anne Gero said the town had a 52 percent trash diversion, trash that went into recycling or composting, rate in 2013, but that is now only 48 percent.
“We’re headed in the wrong direction,” she said.
“It seems silly not to do,” Selectman William Olson said of composting. “We have to be fiscally responsible. We have a great asset we’re not using and it’s costing us money.”
Selectman Sean Farrell said he was also in favor of every-other-week pickups.
The other alternative is to continue the weekly pay-as-you-throw policy that charges residents $2.50 per bag of trash after their first free bag.
“Those who compost won’t need more than one barrel (of trash),” Clark said. “Those who use the service most or refuse to compost should pay for it.”
Over the past few months, the WRC has undertaken efforts to inform people of the need and right to compost and recycle through information tables and booths on election day, a Facebook page, and distribution of composting and recycling bins.
“Previous selectmen asked us to see what we could do to get citizens to recycle to reduce trash and increase composting,” Clark said. “It’s given us an opportunity to clarify what goes in your recycle bin.”
Among other things, they’ve informed people pumpkins should be composted after Halloween not put in the trash and informed new residents of the programs.
“Some residents don’t realize they’re entitled to a bin,” Clark reported, although Farrell pointed out some people compost in their own yards. Compost disintegrates, while burned or land-filled trash generates harmful gas.
One of the problems is a depressed market for recyclables, exacerbated by China refusing to accept them. In addition there is no market for glass. Communities used to get paid for their glass and paper. Now they have to pay to get rid of it.
Another problem is contamination, a consequence of single stream recycling as opposed to the separating of items done in the past. Clark said paper gets contaminated when mixed with food containers, “all that gunk.”
Selectman Darcyll Dale and Olson wondered if the old system of separating was better.
“It sounds like it,” Olson said.
Clark feels a task force is unnecessary and that it would duplicate the efforts of the WRC.
“We don’t need an advisory committee to go to every-other-week,” Gero added. “We know what it is and I’m not sure we need to know more about it. The selectmen can make a decision.”
Olson told them the task force would be focused on building consensus to change the pickup schedule.
“It’s a next step, not a re-do,” he said.
Condo pick up
In a related matter, Town Manager Joe Domelowicz gave selectmen a draft of a policy to pick up trash on private ways, i.e. condominium complexes, the purpose of which is “to offer an opportunity to agree to a solution for the perceived inequity regarding how trash, recycling and compost materials are collected, transported and disposed of.
“This policy would allow the town to recapture the estimated costs of collection, transportation and disposal of trash, recycling and compost from previously uncovered residential properties, provided the condominium association, through its directors, signs an agreement that would allow the town to bill the association for the costs of adding those homes to the trash contract, such that the condominium or homeowners associations can be billed annually for the estimated costs for these services.
“The town will administer this policy on an as needed basis, when approached by an effected condominium or homeowners association.”
The complexes in question are Patton Ridge, near Patton Homestead and Teal Pond, and Carriage House Junction, on Junction Lane adjacent to Essex and Sagamore streets.
Domelowicz said small condo complexes, such as a multi-family houses converted to condos, already get their trash picked up.