Hanson residents will soon have to dig into their wallets to bring their rubbish to the town’s transfer station, joining a growing number of communities statewide that have implemented a “pay-as-you-throw” trash policy.
In a bid to boost recycling and save costs, Hanson starting July 1 is requiring that all trash disposed of at the station be placed in town bags that must be purchased at local stores. Residents will need to pay $2 for a 30-gallon bag and $1.25 for a 15-gallon one. Dropping off recyclables will remain free.
More than 90 percent of the approximately 3,500 households in Hanson bring their trash to the transfer station on Route 27 (Franklin Street), paying for the service only through their taxes. The town does not offer curbside collection.
“This improves the environment because it reduces the solid-waste stream and forces people to recycle more,” Town Administrator Ronald San Angelo said of the new policy, adding that in meeting those goals it will also lower the town’s trash disposal costs.
The system also ensures that those who drop off the most will foot the largest share of the town’s trash costs, San Angelo said, noting that someone who throws out eight 30-gallon bags a week would have to pay $16, but someone who used only one would pay $2.
Hanson will join an increasing number of municipalities in Massachusetts that have implemented pay-as-you-throw trash policies, according to Brooke Nash, branch chief for municipal recycling for the state Department of Environmental Protection.
Currently, 141 cities and towns statewide use the system, including 14 in this region: Bridgewater, Brockton, Cohasset, Duxbury, East Bridgewater, Foxborough, Freetown, Holbrook, Lakeville, Marshfield, Milton, Plymouth, Raynham, and Scituate.
Nash said communities have adopted pay-as-you-throw — which can be applied to curbside collection or transfer stations — because of the cost savings and the environmental benefits. Her agency encourages the move.
“All the data shows that this is the single most effective program a municipality can adopt to increase recycling and composting, and reuse and reduction” of waste, Nash said. “When a community implements pay-as-you-throw, we know . . . it will result in a huge shift in behavior on the part of residents and on the cost to the town to get rid of the trash.”
“The more things people recycle, the less drain on natural resources, the less use of landfills and incinerators to get rid of trash — those are all pluses for the environment,” Nash said.
Marshfield has a pay-as-you-throw policy for its curbside collection in which each household is allowed one free barrel but must pay $2 for any additional bag, according to Tom Reynolds, the town’s public works director.
While it has required some tweaks, Reynolds said the program — adopted in 2007 — works well, noting that in various years it has helped the town reduce the fee it charges households for trash collection, or prevent or minimize an increase. The fee is now $250.
“I think the residents are pretty satisfied with what they have. We are always looking to improve,” he said.
East Bridgewater, which offers curbside trash collection, has had its pay-as-you-throw policy since 1998. Residents pay for each bag, $3 for a 30-gallon bag and $2 for a 15-gallon one, according to John Haines, the town’s director of public works, who likes the system.
“Pay-as-you-throw is the absolute fairest and most equitable way for residents to deal with their solid waste,” Haines said. “That way, the family of five or six is paying for the trash that they produce and the single grandmother that is a very small waste producer is paying for what she uses.”
Haines said roughly a third of the trash generated in town is recycled, a relatively high rate that he attributes in large part to pay-as-you-throw.
The anticipated recycling boost to Hanson from its program could be timely. San Angelo said the town pays $34.50 per ton to dispose of its trash at the Covanta SEMASS waste-to-energy plant, but that fee is likely to rise to $55 to $60 starting next year under a new contract now being negotiated.
Town officials have no immediate figures for how much Hanson now recycles or the rate they would hope to see with the new program. But San Angelo said that WasteZero, the North Carolina firm that will be supplying the trash bags, has told the town communities that move to pay-as-you-throw typically see a 30 to 40 percent decrease in their solid waste disposal.
In addition to the savings expected from the reduced trash tonnage, the town will earn an estimated $200,000 annually from the sale of the trash bags. Under its contract with WasteZero, the firm will provide the town with $1.70 of the proceeds for every $2 bag sold, and $1.05 for every $1.25 bag.
San Angelo said the revenue will be enough to pay for about two-thirds of the town’s trash budget. Meanwhile, an $18,000 grant from the state DEP will pay for at least part of the startup costs for the program, including new signage and a possible reconfiguration of the transfer station.
“I think it’s a great system,” Donna Tramontana, the town’s health agent, said of the new program. “It forces people to recycle. I know a lot of people that don’t recycle because they can’t be bothered. . . . When we start charging people for the bags, they are going to want to have the least amount of trash they can.”John Laidler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.