Milford officials looks at ‘pay-to-throw’ system

MILFORD – Towns and cities across New Hampshire that use a “pay-to-throw” system to encourage recycling, report a significant reduction in trash as well as increased recycling.

The town’s recycling and solid waste committee recently submitted to selectmen a report on “pay-to-throw” system.

Pay-to-throw, also called PayT, is a system of charging users of municipal trash collection based on how much waste they produce by having them buy trash bags. The idea is that the more people recycle, the fewer bags they have to use and the less they pay.

It will “need a significant amount of public discussion, to say the least,” said Chairman Mark Fougere at the board’s Jan 22 meeting. “Going from one method to another is very challenging.”

The committee found that prices for bags ranged from 60 cents for a 10-gallon bag, to $3 for a 33-gallon bag, and in most towns, the price was set to cover the cost of solid waste disposal fees. Some towns used the revenue to offset the salaries of DPW personnel, and a couple of municipalities are saving money in a fund for future landfill closure expenses.

Rodney Richey, whose survey of solid waste management at Milford’s multi-family complexes was used by the committee, told selectmen he doesn’t think pay-to-throw is a good idea for Milford, and people will see it as a second tax.

Committee member Celeste Barr disagreed.

“It treats trash the way other utilities are treated. If you want to leave the lights on 24/7, you pay the bill … and “people think more carefully about what they buy” when they have to pay to get rid of the packaging,” she said.

Though many of the municipalities interviewed do have curbside trash pickup (in some cases residents must pay a private hauler, not the town for this service), the committee reported, most of them still have a drop-off center for recycling and waste disposal if the residents prefer to use it.

None of the municipalities reported an increase in household trash being dumped on the roadsides.

Along with conducting its own survey of 15 towns, the committee used data provided by Northeast Resource Recovery Association in Epsom and the New Hampshire Municipal Association, and watched a presentation by WasteZero, of Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Selectman and committee member Gary Daniels told the board the report is not considered a recommendation, but only a source of information, and Town Administrator Mark Bender praised the committee’s thorough job, quantity of detail and high level of effort and analysis.

Selectman Mike Putnam noted that the town has considered pay-to-throw a few times over the past decade.

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100 or kcleveland@cabinet.com.

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