Trash disposal costs likely to increase for Amherst residents
AMHERST — Amherst residents may pay more for their trash disposal as regional landfills in Northampton and South Hadley close over the next year, but the cost remains uncertain.
Susan Waite, the recycling coordinator for the town, said she is working to lessen the impact of losing the two closest regional landfills. “We don’t anticipate a lot of change, except in expense,” Waite said. “We’ve got time to plan. We’re not expecting anything earth-shattering.”
Most Amherst residents contract with private haulers, as required by Board of Health regulations. Some of these haulers likely bring trash to South Hadley’s landfill, she said, but others make a more distant 568-mile round trip to Seneca Falls, N.Y. If costs rise because of these longer trips, and potentially higher tipping fees, these will be passed on by haulers as added expenses to their customers, Waite said.
The town did sell about 2,000 stickers last year for use of its transfer station to residential and commercial users, such as cooperative housing, contractors and businesses. Resident who obtain refuse-collection variances, primarily for those with small quantities of trash, pay a set fee to use the transfer station, as well as trash bags.
The municipal solid waste and demolition debris goes to the South Hadley landfill, but by next March, Amherst will have to find a new place to send it.
“If we have to send it to a waste energy incinerator plant or to Seneca Falls, there probably will be an increase in cost,” Waite said.
It would also be an estimated 813,000 pounds of additional carbon dioxide produced annually based on eight loads shipped there by truck each week, Waite said.
Besides the potential rising cost of trash disposal, Amherst must face the fact that the town’s solid waste enterprise fund can no longer maintain a transfer station. The fund has also supported hazardous waste collection days, public education and outreach and Waite’s salary.
One positive is that as costs rise, consumers may be encouraged to recycle even more and to buy products with less to dispose, Waite said. The Recycling and Refuse Management Committee, in fact, is pursuing a zero waste initiative, she said.
Unlike South Hadley, where the town is getting about $600,000 in free trash and wastewater treatment plant sludge disposal and 10 percent of $800,000 in tipping fees, Amherst sees no revenue from a landfill, since its dump closed in 2002.
“We’ve not had a similar money-producing activity in Amherst for about 10 years,” Waite said.