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Watertown to shift toward recycling-friendly collection model

Posted by Jaclyn Reiss  November 2, 2011 04:39 PM

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Watertown councilors aim to make the town more recycling-friendly by switching from a dual stream recycling model, where residents sort out recyclables by material type, to single stream, where one bin holds all reusable items.

Councilors also voted unanimously last night to streamline weekly trash pick-up by limiting the number of bulky items residents can put curbside and investigating the possibility of charging extra for additional garbage bins.

The changes will likely take effect in the summer, six months after the town negotiates a new waste removal vendor this winter, since the contract with Allied Waste has expired.

The town will send out request for proposals to qualified vendors for the new contract, with the option of lasting either three or five years. The vendors can also submit quotes for the current town waste removal scheduling – weekly trash pick-up and bi-weekly recycling – or quotes for a more recycling-friendly move, where both waste and recyclables would be removed weekly.

As town officials search for a new company to contract, they will build in requirements to switch from the current cumbersome model of recycling to a single-stream model, where each household would receive one 64-gallon recycling bin for all reusable materials.

The trash removal company would then have six months to educate residents on how and when they can put their trash and recyclables out on the curb.

“We’re trying to encourage recycling,” said Gerald Mee, Jr., Department of Public Works superintendent.

Councilors decided to limit bulky items, or large objects that would not fit in a city-provided 64-gallon garbage bin, to two articles per household per week in order to avoid extraneous costs in bidders’ quotes. Currently, the city has no limits on bulky items.

“After conducting research on other communities, we found that there needs to be a limit on the number of bulky items allowed per week,” Councilor Cecilia Lenk said. “What we don’t like is when an apartment gets cleared out, and there’s a mound of stuff sitting outside that lasts for a week or more. The landlord or tenant should be made responsible for getting rid of that, not the community.”

Councilors said if a household possesses more than two large items, the resident must ration putting the items out weekly in pairs, or call a private collection company.

The council also discussed the necessity of providing larger families who create more trash with a yearly rate to buy additional garbage barrels for overflow waste removal.

Currently, the town is considering four waste removal companies that adhere to Watertown’s requirements, which include experience serving a comparable municipality for at least five years, and who carried out similar recycling process conversions in the past.

Steve Magoon, director of community development and planning, said on the phone that the town seeks to save money, increase recycling, and provide better service in the new waste collection contract.

Magoon said the new contractor might also have to operate the town’s new recycling center. Town officials hope to relocate the current center at Filippello Park, a site meant to be temporary, to the adjacent Schick property owned by Mt. Auburn Cemetery.

“If the new solid waste contractor will operate it, which is one of the options we’re looking at, it would certainly behoove us to have conversation with them on layout and design,” Magoon said.

The current recycling center, located on basketball courts in Filippello Park, has housed the facility for over 10 years but was never meant to be used permanately, Magoon said.

However, moving the equipment to the Schick property – which Mt. Auburn offered up temporarily to the city for a maximum of 10 years – is controversial among town officials, Magoon said.

“[Councilor Steve] Corbett is not in favor of spending money to put the recycling center there because it would be temporary,” Magoon said. “He feels like we ought to find a permanent site.”

Corbett could not be reached by phone for comment.

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