Bristol's new trash plan put on hold until spring

It’s all changing — new trucks, new barrels, new staffing and a new system

By Christy Nadalin
Posted 10/10/19

The town has decided to delay implementation of a new trash pickup plan, which will include new automated trucks, new trash barrels for all residents and businesses, and a dramatic scale-down of …

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Bristol's new trash plan put on hold until spring

It’s all changing — new trucks, new barrels, new staffing and a new system

Posted

The town has decided to delay implementation of a new trash pickup plan, which will include new automated trucks, new trash barrels for all residents and businesses, and a dramatic scale-down of trash collection personnel. Instead of launching in winter, when the town takes delivery of four new automated garbage trucks, the new program will launch in the spring.

“I didn’t want to complicate the implementation of a whole new trash program by launching it in the middle of winter,” said Department of Public Works director Kevin McBride.

The 96-gallon carts that each resident and business will receive will allow for completely automated pickup. Where trash trucks were once staffed by three men, the new system will allow for just one driver to operate pickup. Displaced staff will be reassigned to the town sewer department.

According to town leaders, the new plan will have many benefits, and once everyone is through the learning curve, few discerible drawbacks.

With four new trucks at roughly $300,000 each, and about 17,000 trash carts to be purchased at a total estimated cost of about $100 per, or $1.7 million (split evenly between trash and recycling, less a Coastal Community Grant that will cover a portion of the recycling carts), the new program would appear to have some formidable start-up costs. But that doesn’t tell the whole story. The cost of the trucks themselves would have had to have been borne anyway — the automated trucks are not significantly more expensive than the traditional trucks, and the town’s fleet was nearing the end of its lifespan anyway.

According to Town Administrator Steven Contente, personnel cost savings will begin immediately, and be significant. In addition to the salaries of the employees on trash detail, the town should see a significant reduction in worker’s compensation claims, currently sky-high.

“They are by far the most injured town employees,” said Mr. McBride. “They make about 2,000 stops every day, picking up two or three barrels at each, some as heavy as 50 pounds or more.”

The new carts will arrive and be distributed in late March or early April, with the trash cart and pickups launching first, with recycling to follow after a couple of weeks.

The new barrels are taller than traditional trash cans, but their footprint is about the same. Equipped with wheels, they should be easier to roll to the curb — and with a square profile, less likely to blow down the street in a strong wind.

Mr. McBride admits that pickup will be more difficult on some streets than others, but it’s a problem that is far from insurmountable. “We have some tight spots downtown,” he said. “We pick up trash on those streets today, and we’ll do it tomorrow.”

“There may be some neighborhoods where it will be a little more challenging than others, and that’s just something we’ll work through,” Mr. Contente said.

Mr. McBride emphasized that as the roll-out approaches, the DPW will be reaching out to the community with instructions on where and how to best leave the carts accessible for pickup on trash day. “We’ll help everyone work through it,” he said. “Other communities have done this very successfully and we will, too.”

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