Despite changes, trash costs keep rising

Rising fees coupled with more people at home are increasing the cost of taking out the trash

By Christy Nadalin
Posted 1/14/21

The cost of trash disposal in Rhode Island is measured in “tipping fees” — the per-ton price municipalities are charged by the Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation for waste …

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Despite changes, trash costs keep rising

Rising fees coupled with more people at home are increasing the cost of taking out the trash

Posted

The cost of trash disposal in Rhode Island is measured in “tipping fees” — the per-ton price municipalities are charged by the Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation for waste disposal (not including recycling).

They’ve been going up — quickly.

“Tipping fees have gone sky-high,” said Chris Parella, director of Bristol’s Department of Public Works.

That’s something that began about five years ago as Resource Recovery Corp., the quasi-state agency that owns and operates the landfill and recycling facility in Johnston, implemented a fee schedule to pay for a badly-needed, 100-acre expansion of the landfill. The fees were $32 per ton in the 2015-2016 fiscal year, and have been increasing steadily. They will be at $54 per ton by the fiscal year ending in 2023.

The fees themselves are only part of the problem, for Bristol and similar “bedroom” communities. All those residents who used to commute to offices in Providence and Boston (and leave their midday trash there) are now working from home. Despite overhauling its entire trash and recycling program and switching to the new cart system that was supposed to improve recycling rates, Bristol showed an increase from 8,023 tons of waste in 2019 to 8,277 tons in 2020 — an increase of 254 tons. It’s a trend that will, to some degree, almost certainly be here to stay.

It’s also a number that Mr. Parella suspects would be higher, had so many Roger Williams University students in off-campus housing not left town when the university first switched to distance learning in the spring.

Another issue for Bristol, almost uniquely, is how far this community consistently goes over Resource Recovery Corp.’s set cap, the amount of trash the town may dispose of at the Central Landfill in Johnston before additional costs are imposed. The cap is based on the residential population, and each ton over the cap includes an extra per-ton charge to the town.

Bristol’s population sets the town cap at roughly 7,500 tons, a figure that the town routinely exceeds, to the tune of close to $100,000 per year.

“We are well over the cap,” said Mr. Parella, something he suspects is due to the amount of commercial trash the town collects. “It’s a great service to businesses, but it pushes the tonnage up.”

Bristol’s DPW stops to pick up the trash from nearly 80 sites that are clearly identifiable as commercial businesses. Statewide, only one other town — New Shoreham — picks up trash from businesses.

According to the state’s solid waste management plan, the Central Landfill will reach capacity in less than two decades — a deadline not lost on Mr. Parella. We’re going to need to figure out something to do, because we’re running out of space up there, and it’s just getting more expensive,” he said.

“Trash is big business.”

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