MANCHESTER — An overwhelming majority of the people at Thursday's public session on a proposed pay-as-you-throw garbage collection system said they were opposed to the idea.
"I feel it's another tax you're forcing on us," resident Robert Olson said.
The plan was put forward in recent months as a way to generate revenue for the city.
But opinions expressed at the session seemed to back up what some city aldermen have said — that constituents have a strongly negative reaction to the prospect of the city adopting pay-as-you-throw (PAYT).
Public Works Director Kevin Sheppard has estimated that PAYT, which has also been referred to as bag-and-tag, could yield up to $3.5 million in revenue and savings, both through the sale of the $1-$2 bags and by driving up the recycling rate.
During a presentation Thursday night, Mark Gomez, the city's environmental programs manager, and Stephen P. Lisauskas, vice president of government affairs for WasteZero, a national PAYT management company, said cities that have adopted the system have routinely seen declines in solid waste disposal. They said Malden, Mass., for example, reduced its amount of solid waste by 52 percent since beginning PAYT in October 2008.
One way the program reduces costs, the presenters said, is through encouraging people to throw away less recyclable material because they won't want to pay for it. Manchester has a 14 percent recycling rate; that is estimated to increase to 31 percent if the city adopts PAYT.
The city would reduce trash by an estimated 16,400 tons per year, saving $1 million in tipping fees, according to presenters.
At Thursday's session, just one person who spoke said he was in favor of pay-as-you-throw.
Bill Ouellette was among the majority who was skeptical of the plan.
"We all know that the costs of these bags will go up every year, just like our taxes," Ouellette said. He also said he believed bags on curbs would result in more garbage strewn in the streets.
Lisauskas, though, said cities have routinely found that the bags, which are thicker than standard, store-bought trash bags, have kept cities cleaner. In his experience, cities have kept PAYT costs stable, revisiting them "every six or seven years."
"It's not like taxes," he said. "The fee tends to move pretty slowly."
A number of communities in the state have adopted bag fee programs, including Concord and Dover. Concord switched to PAYT in 2009. City trash bags can be purchased at more than a dozen stores. A 15-gallon bag costs $1; a 30-gallon bag costs $2.
Another session on PAYT is set for 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday at Parkside Middle School.