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Changes To Curbside Trash Pick Up On City Council Agenda

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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A proposal to overhaul the curbside trash pickup system is heading to the City Council.
 
Mayor Linda Tyer has put forth a request to move to a toter system, with which residents will be provided a 45-gallon tote for trash and a 95-gallon tote for recycling. Those totes allow for Republic Services to use trucks with automated arms. 
 
"The modernization of our solid waste and recycling collection program is long overdue and our proposal mirrors other programs that have been highly successful throughout Massachusetts. Most notably, the cities of Chicopee and Agawam have recently made similar modifications to their collection programs and have experienced immediate benefits with waste reduction and increased recycling," wrote Tyer in a letter to the City Council.
 
Tyer is asking the City Council to the refer it to the Committee of the Whole, where the entire council will be able to hear a presentation from the mayor's administrative team.
 
The key points of the plan are that each household will receive a 45-gallon toter for trash and a 95-gallon toter for recycling. The city will sell overflow bags if a household exceeds the space in the tote — the bags will be 15 and 33 gallons and will be priced according to size. The city will switch to a single-stream recycling system, which means the separations of the different recyclable materials will no longer be needed. Trash will continue to be picked up on a weekly basis and recyclables will be picked up every two weeks.
 
The proposal comes to the council after a year of discussion. Last September, Ward 3 Councilor Nicholas Caccamo had put forth a petition requesting that the toter system be considered. That led to a series of meeting from what was a dormant Resource Recovery Committee studying the possibility and ultimately recommending the switch.
 
Of note, the administration is proposing to increase the size of the totes for trash compared to the Resource Recovery Committee's recommendation of 35 gallons. The Resource Recovery Commission had recommended the 35-gallon and 95-gallon option and said the city would save some $87,000 per year and dramatically increase the amount of recycling.
 
The Resource Recovery Commission had run the estimates for a 48-gallon tote for trash — which is closer to the administration's proposal — and estimated a savings of $15,411. That includes the capital costs related to purchasing the toters.
 
One main focus of the change is to increase recycling. Currently, the city's recycling rate is around 11 percent and it has been estimated that the restriction on the amount of trash will lead to higher levels. It was estimated that that 11 percent will increase to about 29 percent, based on the 48-gallon plan. The increased amount of recycling would, in turn, lessen the amount of trash the city pays to dispose.
 
The move also looks to combat health concerns as well. Currently, many residents put trash out in unclosed bins — or even just trash bags on the curb — and animals get into them, garbage is strewn across the street. The hope is that with a more uniformed look amount street and less trash on the roadways, the city's aesthetics will be improved.
 
The change will also require a capital component. The Resource Recovery Commission estimated it would cost the city $1.8 million to purchase toters for every household. That would either have to be borrowed for paid for through a state grant. The city had applied for a grant to cover those costs but it isn't known whether or not the city will receive it.
 
"These modifications are based upon recommendations from the city's Resource Recovery Committee and the extensive work of several senior managers including the Commissioner of Public Services, the Director of Public Health, the Director of Finance, the Open Space and Natural Resources Manager, the Director of Administrative Services as well as representatives from Republic Services," Tyer wrote.
 
"Through their collective efforts, the proposal submitted herewith will modernize our current collection system by implementing greater efficiencies, enhancing environmental stewardship, combating blight, and reducing the costs of our solid waste disposal."
 
Making the move had been listed as a priority for Tyer in the annual budget presentation this past year. But, this is the third time in recent memory that city has attempted to make the switch. Both times in the past the plan failed to receive City Council approval.
 
The city currently provides free pick up to residential homes with four or fewer units. The owners of larger commercial rental properties are required to pay for disposal on their own.
 
The City Council will receive the petition Tuesday night — and likely schedule a date for the Committee of the Whole meeting. The change could be approved by the end of this year, and implemented in 2018.
 
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