Bristol throwing cash in the trash
If helping the environment isn’t enough incentive for Bristol residents to increase their recycling efforts, maybe saving the town – and perhaps themselves — money is.
The town of Bristol recently entered into a renewed contract agreement with the Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation. While the cost per ton of trash will stay the same through June 20, 2015, the central landfill lowered the amount of trash it will accept at the $32 per ton fee, creating a monetary incentive for towns to increase their recycling rates.
The reason for the increase, said Bristol Department of Public Works Director Jim Galuska, is understandable. “The landfill has a finite life span,” he said. “This is a forced initiative to recycle.”
Under the previous contract, the town was allowed to take 7,200 tons of trash to the landfill at the $32 per ton rate. Under the new contract, only 6,800 tons of trash will be accepted at that rate. Additional trash disposal will cost the town $54 per ton.
In 2013, Bristol sent 1.3 tons of trash per household to the state landfill while recycling only 17.4 percent of its trash. According to RIRR data, Bristol creates the most trash and recycles the least when compared to 13 comparative towns based on population. Statewide, Bristol was the fourth highest trash producer in the state, while having the third worst recycling rate among the 39 cities and towns.
For fiscal year 2013-14, the town spent about $270,000 to dispose of its 9,200 tons of trash at the central landfill.
“We’ve got to get better at (recycling),” Mr. Galuska said. “It’s difficult to come up with an acceptable program.”
Ideas such as "pay-as-you-throw" — which charges residents directly for the amount of trash they put out — and "no bin no barrel" — in which trash is not picked up unless a home recycles — have been mentioned as potential solutions to force residents to recycle more. But the town hopes residents will voluntarily increase their recycling efforts.
“What we’re looking for is to change the behavior,” said Town Administrator Tony Teixeira. “What we’re trying to do is to force people to think about recycling more.”
A third option the town is considering is to provide households with one 90 gallon trash barrel. The town will collect that one barrel of trash on a weekly basis. Residents with additional trash would have to take it to the transfer station themselves.
The inconvenience, said Mr. Teixeira, may be enough to change people’s behavior. In looking at what other communities have done, he said Middletown was able to increase its recycling rate by 30 percent after that town adopted a pay-as-you-throw program.
Efforts such as the town’s recycling committee and Bristol Recycles, a grassroots group, has been leading the charge to promote recycling, hosting informational events and providing educational opportunities where residents can become more familiar with recycling.
“We definitely need to be seriously looking at this,” Mr. Teixeira said. “It translates into big dollars. We need to do something.”