© The Stoneham Independent
STONEHAM, MA - The Board of Selectmen last week informally agreed to consider the implementation of a pay-as-you-throw (PAYT) trash system while considering a proposal to bring back a recycling coordinator.
During a gathering last Tuesday night in Town Hall,Selectman George Seibold tried to convince his colleagues to allocate some $15,000 to restore a part-time recycling coordinator position that was eliminated a few years ago due to funding issues.
Ultimately, the Board of Selectmen informally agreed without taking a vote to consider the request, but with the would-be DPW staff member job competing with school department funding initiatives, the town officials would not commit to the financial obligation.
"That is something I'd be fully behind, but we haven't even fully funded our schools yet," responded Board of Selectmen Chair Anthony Wilson.
Though no action was taken on the request, Seibold's pitch sparked a related conversation about Stoneham's waste hauling contract and whether the townspeople would be better served through a PAYT-based collection system.
Specifically, Selectman Shelly MacNeill suggested the group consider the change. Under that method, which has been studied at length over the past decade, residents would pay a flat-fee for standard-issued trash bags.
Proponents of that system argue townspeople, particularly senior citizens and the small families, are better able to control their refuse costs by boosting their recycling activity and thereby slashing the amount of waste they toss in the trash.
Both Wilson and Selectman Caroline Colarusso, who has constantly advocated for reducing residents' annual trash bill, agreed MacNeill's idea has merit. In fact, last week's conversation comes as Colarusso moves ahead with a Town Meeting initiative to slash residents annual trash fee by appropriating some $1.1 million of Stoneham's $3.4 million in surplus revenue.
"I would like to see some quantifiable numbers. To me, it's counterintuitive that recycling is less than it was a year ago," said Colarusso. "[I'll support] anything to bring down costs...I just want to make sure our contract with Casella has that kind of elasticity."
According to DPW Director Robert Grover, who rose to support the restoration of the part-time recycling coordinator, Stoneham's total trash tonnage has steadily climbed ever since the position was eliminated.
"We haven't had it for a couple of years now, and what we're noticing is our trash [tonnage] numbers going up. Our recycling, for all practical purposes, has flatlined. What we think that means is that people are throwing away recycling [items]," said the DPW director.
Grover later claimed that trend is technically beneficial to Stoneham, as the cost of recycling now exceeds the expense of carting rubbish to the incinerator, but the DPW manager predicted the abnormality would eventually reverse itself.
Back in 2014, the last time Stoneham leaders enacted wholesale changes to curbside waste pickup policies, some trash companies were offering steep discounts for their regular trash services in exchange for recycling contracts.
At the time, according to an ad hoc group studying the topic, there was a lucrative market for those reusable materials being driven by demand from China for those products. That market has since collapsed, which has apparently resulted in an unforeseen spike in recycling expenses.