Amherst advocacy group continues push for townwide trash pickup

By SCOTT MERZBACH

Staff Writer

Published: 03-29-2023 2:23 PM

AMHERST — An average Amherst household is paying upward of $550 per year to have curbside trash and recycling pickup, but is getting no incentive to reduce what is being put into the waste stream, according to results of a survey presented to the Town Services and Outreach Committee.

The advocacy group Zero Waste Amherst recently gave the Town Council subcommittee information from its “Trash, Recycling and Compost Services Survey and Data” as it continues to push for changes to the current system where residents are either obligated to hire a hauler, approved by the town, or to bring their trash and recyclables directly to the transfer station on Belchertown Road.

That group’s preference, through a revised solid waste bylaw it is proposing, is to institute a townwide contract for waste and recycling hauling services.

“The intention of this bylaw is to dramatically reduce waste and its associated pollution and emissions, and to reduce waste and recycling costs for residents, as well,” member John Root said.

Root said the hope is to bring savings to residents who depend on the curbside pickup, which is exclusively handled by USA Hauling & Recycling. By contrast, homeowners who use the town’s transfer station on Belchertown Road pay $125 per year for a sticker, and purchase trash bags.

How the town moves in a new direction is uncertain, through Amherst last fall received a Department of Environmental Protection grant that will provide the Department of Public Works up to 80 hours of help to develop a proposal for contracting solid waste and recycling services.

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Susan Waite, the DEP municipal assistance coordinator for 100 communities in the state’s western region, will be composing a request for information for haulers to respond to.

Town Manager Paul Bockelman said Tuesday that Waite, who previously worked for both Amherst and Northampton in handling solid waste and recycling matters, is collecting data from other cities and towns.

One idea being considered is to have a pay-as-you-throw system and an efficient collection of materials that would reduce direct costs for residents. There would also be pickup of compostable materials, including food scraps, pizza boxes and yard waste, from all households, ensuring that organic matter is diverted from the landfill and the frequency of trash pickups can be cut.

The Zero Waste Amherst survey indicated that for many, the curbside service is that too expensive and doesn’t offer enough pay-as-you-throw options.

At-Large Councilor Andy Steinberg, a member of the subcommittee, said he questions whether the voluntary survey data is useful, even with comments from respondents. “It’s only statistically presentable as people who responded,” Steinberg said.

Steinberg said he is having conversations with other communities to learn more about practices there.

As it stands, any hauler can go to the DPW to be licensed to pick up trash and market its service within Amherst, but he wouldn’t want to see this happen.

“I actually am not necessarily in favor of having multiple companies picking up in Amherst, because everyone that comes is another set of trucks that is running up and down streets and causing pollution,” Steinberg said.

District 3 Councilor Dorothy Pam, also on the subcommittee, said she agrees that competing trucks wouldn’t be good.

“When we did have more trucks here, I did comment at a Town Council meeting on the ridiculousness of these monster trucks going up and down residential streets,” Pam said.

Darcy DuMont, a former councilor and member of Zero Waste Amherst, said no waste reduction practices are being implemented by USA.

While Northampton has the same problems with its curbside service, residents in that city have the Pedal People option.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.]]>