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New Automated Trash Program Considered

Wakefield officials are considering switching the town to a new, automated trash collection system that would potentially decrease the amount of trash produced, increase recycling, and save the town money in the long run.

It's a dirty job, but there's more than one way to do it.

Trash in Wakefield has always been collected conventionally, with each resident supplying his or her own trash cans and trash bags and having it hand-collected by two people on a large truck.

However, Department of Public Works Director Rick Stinson has proposed switching the town to a new automated trash pickup system, which would use new trucks equipped with a robotic arm to pick up special town-supplied trash bins from the curb.

"We have the ability to improve the efficiency of our current disposal program and to take a more environmentally friendly approach in our refuse collection program," said Stinson, noting that nearby towns that have switched to this system have seen increases in recycling and decreases in trash.

Details of Potential Program
Under the new system, one 65 gallon trash container would be distributed to each single-family residence in town. Two, three, or four family homes would receive two, three or four containers. Additional containers can be rented from the town at a cost of $150 per barrel per year. 

"Special event bags" would be available to residents to help with a one-time higher-than-normal trash flow after an event like birthdays, holidays and parties. A bag of five special event bags costs $10.

Bulky item pickup, for trash items like couches or furniture that will not fit in the barrel, would be done day per week, a change from the current approach. Stinson said the details of this part of the plan still need to be developed.

"If we could reduce waste stream by 2400 tons, the town would save $146,208," he said. "This does not include operating cost savings or additional paper recycling revenue."

Stinson added that other cost-savings to the town would include reducing the need for three trucks staffed with two people each, to two trucks with two people each. Stinson was hestinant to put any hard numbers on what other savings could include until he had time to develop and compare the new program with the conventional one.

Planning Stages
However, the plan is still in its very initial stages, and may not even be implemented at all.

Stinson asked the Board of Selectmen on Nov. 28 for approval to compare the costs of the current method with the new automated method to see what the potential savings and impacts were of each program so that a decision could be made on which system to use.

If it's implemented, the new automated trash collection program would begin in July of 2012.

Martha Carriere December 01, 2011 at 12:00 PM
If this will eliminate trash barrels and recyclable containers being tossed halfway across the lawn, forcing me to climb over piles of snow to retrieve, I'm all for it. Is it so hard to replace containers in the general vicinity they were obtained? I'm tired of having to replace/repair recyclable containers/trash barrels.
annie December 01, 2011 at 02:11 PM
Any program that would reduce trash, increase recycling and save the town money is a no-brainer in my mind. I'd enthusiastically support this effort! Hopefully the two people cut could find other positions supporting the increased recycling effort.
Jacqueline Menjivar December 01, 2011 at 02:36 PM
I personally think this is a horrible idea. I am in a single family house, but there are 7 of us. We need to pay 150.00 per year fror ONE more barrel? Will we have to pay for "special" trash bags like Malden does - which are way more expensive than others? Also, this is for trash, not recycling, so how does it help with recycling? Or is that going to be added later and then I have to pay another 150 dollars per year for a recycling bin? Do the trash men lose their jobs? I find this very unappealing...my two cents
annie December 01, 2011 at 03:08 PM
Maybe it's just me, but I'd be willing to bet that a lot of the stuff that currently goes into the Wakefield trash system can actually be recycled. Wakefield will recycle anything with the numbers 1-7 on the bottom of the container, plus paper and cardboard. So if this new type of trash program went into effect, households would have more incentive to recycle everything possible, and save the town money in the process. At least that's how I understood it.
Sara Jacobi December 01, 2011 at 03:23 PM
Hi Jacqueline, I don't have ALL the answers to your questions, but a) yes, additional trash barrels are $150/year b) no special trash bags are needed like in Malden c) not sure about additional containers for recycling, but apparently this program has been shown in towns like Mansfield and Dedham to decrease trash output by more than 25%, and increase recycling by 13%, according to Stinson's presentation d) as far as we know right now, those two jobs would not be necessary in town anymore.
Paul Mozell December 01, 2011 at 05:53 PM
Another way to reduce trash is to reduce packaging. Huge quantities of cardboard and plastic are used to box the majority of products sold by Shaws, Stop & Shop, CVS, Walgreens, and Marketbasket. It won't happen overnight, but consumers and town governments could be pressuring these retailers to require their suppliers to reduce the amount of packaging; most of which is designed to catch the attention of shoppers. Perhaps the town could also require these stores to charge a small fee for each plastic or paper shopping bag used at check-out. Although more and more consumers are bringing reusable bags to the market, participation in this earth-friendly practice is still very low.
Jessica A. December 29, 2011 at 07:55 AM
This is a hidden tax. Trash pickup is a town service paid by property taxes. Many families will need to rent the extra barrel for $150. Net result: residential tax burden go up, and services decline. Is this further funding of the disproportionate abatements granted to business properties in this town? If Wakefield was serious about reducing trash by increasing recycling, they would make recycling a whole lot easier. In Melrose, their version of "The Pit" has dumpsters for mass recycling of everything. They do not require you to risk lacerations cutting cardboard into 24" x 30" squares to fit the undersized bins on Wakefield's recycling trucks. Instead, Melrose residents just fold boxes flat and throw them in the dumpster. Open 5 days a week by the way. Guess what... you can recycle mercury items there too. Any day. Not just the TWO DAYS PER YEAR provided in Wakefield, and not even full days. (Hint: Wakefield would secretly prefer you just toss those fluorescent light bulbs in the trash.)
Jessica A. December 29, 2011 at 08:17 AM
Instead, you'll have to retrieve your barrels from somewhere in the street, hopefully before they get crushed by a car or plow. Do you think that mechanical arm will gently replace your barrel back on your precarious snow bank as carefully as you? Those trash collectors were maybe doing you a favor by ensuring your barrels landed on the safer side of your snowbank. (I'd like to see the same video posted in the story above, but during the height of winter.)

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