MANCHESTER — A Raleigh, N.C., outfit came to Manchester this week and proclaimed there’s gold in them ‘thar hills of rubbish.
Waste Zero, a company that profits from running pay-as-you-throw rubbish disposal programs in cities and towns around the country, pitched an aldermanic committee on the idea of a trash collection program that would force residents to buy official trash bags at a cost that would include a trash collection fee on top of the cost of the bag.
The company’s vice president and head salesman, Stephen Lisauskas, said a paid rubbish pick-up system would cut the current rubbish collection rate of 870 pounds of trash per person by 44 percent or more. He said the city’s 14 percent recycling rate could increase to 31 percent within a couple of months of instituting a trash fee.
Typical fees for official trash bags that would be required for curbside pick-up would be in the neighborhood of $2 per bag.
The committee decided to set up a series of meetings in different sections of the city to allow the company to make its pitch directly to residents.
Lisauskas, a former Springfield, Mass., city manager, orchestrated a prepared presentation in which he said promotes “fairness” in which people who recycle don’t cover the rubbish disposal costs for families that don’t.
That idea brought a quick response from Ward 7 Alderman William Shea.
“You could use that argument for schools or for police or fire, whatever, where people would say, ‘We don’t use them,’” Shea said. “That’s not a very sound type of judgment because you’re equating one type of usage in a society in lieu of the others.”
But Lisauskas countered that there is a difference between rubbish disposal — which he said provides a service based on use — and public safety, which provides a benefit by merely existing.
There was no public comment period at the committee meeting. But a few minutes later, one resident took advantage of the public comment period at the meeting of the Board of Aldermen.
“I think that is a bad idea overall; it has been defeated in the past, I hope that it would be defeated again,” Tammy Simmons of Park Street said of pay-as-you-throw.
Another sort of trash fee could be imposed much sooner in Manchester. Last year, the city began charging for bulk items picked up at curbside. Now, health officials have floated the possibility of extending the charge to items brought to the Dunbarton Road drop-off center. Mark Gomez, who recently took over as environmental programs manager for the city Health Department, told aldermen that charging for dropped-off bulk waste items could raise $25,000 a year for the city.
Gomez and Health Director Timothy Soucy said that since the city started charging for bulk item pick-up while allowing free drop off, people are simply transporting their own bulk items.
The Health Department has also suggested charging fees for old televisions, monitors and computers — a category of rubbish now known as E-waste.
Right now, the city handles whatever electronic junk residents bring in. The cost reached $65,000 per year a couple of years ago, although the city found recyclers willing to cart off the E-waste for free last year. “We’re incurring costs and we’re charging zero,” Soucy said. “2013 was the only year that it didn’t cost us anything.”
Exact fees for bulk and electronic waste disposal remain under consideration. As with pay-as-you-throw, any proposal to start charging for dropping off bulk items or outdated electronics would require adoption of an ordinance.