Deep River Residents to Vote on ‘Pay-as-You-Throw’ Program
The food scraps pilot program that began in February has been lauded as a success by state and local officials, making Deep River a statewide leader for sustainable waste practices. Now, the newly formed Board of Selectmen (BOS) Ad-hoc Committee on Waste Reduction wants to take that accomplishment one more critical step further.
The committee will present a unit-based pricing (UBP) or “pay-as-you-throw” waste disposal model and ask residents to vote at a special meeting on Monday, Dec. 11. In a pay-as-you-throw model, residents would be required to purchase special trash bags and use them to dispose of household waste at the town’s transfer station. Bags that are not part of the program would no longer be accepted. The proposal aims to further decrease the amount of trash generated by residents.
“We have to reduce our trash, and one way to do this is to pressure people to remove things from household garbage and recycle them in a more appropriate way,” said committee member Lenore Grunko.
Representatives of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP), waste management service WasteZero, and former BOS members Angus McDonald and James Olson have touted the success of the food scrap pilot program that started earlier this year. The UBP system for household waste is seen as the logical next step in Deep River, leading the way in meeting statewide challenges in waste management and environmental degradation that have placed a growing financial burden on Connecticut’s towns and cities.
The UBP model is meant to incentivize residents to be more mindful of what they decide to throw away and how much they throw away. According to DEEP official Jennifer Weymouth, the UBP method is “the single most effective strategy for helping communities reduce waste.”
Weymouth describes the model as similar to the payment of kilowatts per hour of electricity in a household.
“When we talk about unit-based pricing, the residents get to take control of what they’re paying for. When there’s a price signal for electricity, you want to turn the lights off when you leave your room, or you want to install Energy Star appliances. Those things help you save money on your electric bill,” said Weymouth.
The same kind of practice is applicable to waste disposal at the transfer station and other more mindful forms of reusing materials, said Weymouth.
“For unit-based pricing for trash, it’s the same thing: it gives you that price incentive to reduce…to pay attention to the things that can go in your recycling bin,” she said.
Residents can also be more mindful of donating textiles, home appliances, or other materials so as to not accumulate more waste to be transported to methane-producing landfills.
Figures from DEEP show that over 550 communities across the Northeastern United States that have implemented UBP have witnessed a collective waste reduction rate of 44%.
If voters approve the move to the pay-as-you-go model, residents who utilize the transfer station would be required to purchase official orange bags in local stores, such as Adams Hometown Market, for nonrecyclable materials, including potato chip bags, snack and candy wrappers, feminine hygiene products, and other forms of household waste. Prices range from $2 per bag for a 33-gallon bag, $1.30 for 13-gallon bags, and $0.95 for eight-gallon bags.
For “verified low-income households,” the town will subsidize the bags, and assistance would be available through the Selectman’s office. Bags will also be tax-exempt, so stores cannot mark up their price.
Residents are encouraged to continue separating their food scraps from the total trash generated in their homes for appropriate disposal at the transfer station.
The committee and WasteZero said, “Reducing trash has environmental and economic benefits for the town” and residents. According to WasteZero, “the carbon emission reduction associated with reducing a town’s waste is almost twice what the emission reduction would be if the town moved all its town vehicles to electric and got rid of streetlights,” making the environmental benefits of trash reduction and continued food scrap separation “enormous.”
One of the biggest benefits cited by state and town officials includes cutting increasing tipping fees levied on Deep River for transporting household waste to landfills in Pennsylvania and Ohio. McDonald said at a BOS meeting on Nov. 14 that tipping fees have risen by 36% in less than eight years since his tenure as First Selectman.
“It’s only going to continue to escalate,” said McDonald.
According to Grunko, “The revenue we earn from this new system will pay for the bags, pay for the tipping fees, the tipping fees will go down because there will be less trash.”
The remaining monies will go into a “specially designated transfer station fund” intended for minor infrastructure improvements at the Transfer Station, said Grunko. An example includes a gate that would ensure that Deep River residents who “are using the Transfer Station are the only ones using Transfer Station.”
If approved by town electors, the tentative plan by the committee is to see the new model begin officially on Earth Day, April 24, 2024.
The special town meeting will take place at Town Hall on Dec. 11 at 7 p.m. Questions can be directed to the First Selectman’s Office at 860-526-6020 ext. 1.