July 16, 2008

Town Looks into Contract Change to Cut Trash Costs

By Richard C Dujardin

NORTH PROVIDENCE -- Thanks to changes instituted during the last year, the town was able to save $207,000 in tipping fees at the central landfill in Johnston. But, Robert E. Nascimento, town recycling coordinator, said the savings might have been more were it not for a quirk in the contract with the town's trash hauler.

Nascimento said the contract with MTG contains a provision similar to one in an earlier contract with Coastal Resources that requires separate pickups for yard waste in October, November, December, April and May, but allows the hauler to mix yard waste with the regular trash from June through September.

The amount of yard waste was much more than Nascimento had anticipated and has cost the town much more in tipping fees in summer than if the yard waste was separated, so it could be disposed of for free.

"That's a provision that I definitely would like to see taken out of the contract," Nascimento said. "It's the main reason why our percentage of recycling went from 21 percent down to 18 percent between May and June. MTG has told us it would be willing to return to having a separate pickup for yard waste, but at a cost," somewhere around $36,000.

"But you know the mayor. He wants to see hard numbers. He wants to know whether the savings in tipping fees would be more than what we'd have to pay MTG. That's something we're still studying. From what I can tell right now, the difference between what the hauler wants to charge and what we would pay at the landfill is less than $2,000."

All of this might sound like inside baseball for people who only care that the trash is picked up, but it does have implications for the typical homeowner.

Many residents have been careful to keep their yard waste separate, buying paper bags for leaves and grass clippings. Nascimento says that until the contract is changed, homeowners can save the money they spend on the bags because it all goes to the same place.

"Personally, I would like to see the separate pickups during the growing season because grass clippings have a lot of weight. Grass is much heavier than leaves and adds to our tonnage.

"Of course, there is another option as well. People can use their clippings as mulch and not rake at all. That's what I do, and from what the experts say, it is very good for the lawn because it acts as a fertilizer," he said.

Nascimento said that over the last few weeks, he has received some calls from residents who saw crews mixing yard waste with other trash and were sure they were doing something wrong.

"I had to explain to them that what they were doing was within the contract," he said.

According to the annual summary from Rhode Island Resource Recovery, the town deposited 12,100 tons of solid waste at the landfill during the fiscal year, down by more than 2,000 tons from the previous year. The cost to the town was $32 a ton, a fee that could have shot up to $56.50 per ton if the town had exceeded its cap of 13,713 tons.

The town went over its cap in fiscal year 2006-2007 and ended up paying $594,000 in tipping fees. In fiscal year 2007-2008, its tipping fees were down to $387,200.

Nascimento said the town saved $66,000 when it switched over to MTG, and $26,000 from no longer allowing town trucks to make runs to the landfill with branches and other yard waste.

Last July, under the old system, public works trucks made 46 round trips with yard waste, at an estimated cost of $84 per trip. Now, the yard waste is put in Dumpsters that are taken to the landfill when full.

Homeowners are also being asked to use the green and blue bins for recycling paper, plastic and metal, which kept 2,728 tons from the solid waste total.

Nascimento said there are a number of proposals being considered to increase the town's recycling total. While the City of Providence has been looking into a pay-as-you-throw policy that penalizes residents who throw out more than one bagful a week by making them pay for extra bags, North Providence is looking into a policy that would forbid a trash hauler from picking up trash if the property owner has not also left out a recycling bin.

Under the town regulations, homeowners must make their own arrangements to haul away construction debris, but they can leave out "clean wood" cut to four-foot lengths.

The hauler will also take one large item a week, such as a sofa or a chair, but no television sets, computers or similar electronic items, since these must be taken care of separately.

Residents can also call for an appointment to have white good items, such as refrigerators and washing machines, picked up at no charge.

Homeowners must make their own arrangements to haul away bathtubs and Jacuzzis.

North Providence is looking into a policy that would forbid a trash hauler from picking up trash if the property owner has not also left out a recycling bin. [email protected] / (401) 277- 7384

Originally published by Richard C Dujardin, Journal Staff Writer.

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