Consolidated trash, recycling collection analyzed
By Luke Baynes
The Williston Selectboard was talking trash at its Monday meeting after hearing a proposal from the Chittenden Solid Waste District for consolidated refuse and recycling collection.
CSWD, which encompasses all of Chittenden County, currently licenses private haulers that compete for customers in most municipalities. Under the proposed system, CSWD would award a contract to one or more haulers for curbside pickup of trash and recyclables.
The benefits of a consolidated collection system, according to a report prepared by consulting firm DSM Environmental Services Inc., include reduced costs to households and the likelihood of an increased level of recycling by residents.
The study looked at both weekly and biweekly options for residential trash and recycling collection. Assuming a current annual household cost of $305 for waste services, the weekly option has a projected annual savings of $76, or 25 percent. The biweekly option has a projected annual household savings of $102, or 33 percent.
Residents would be allowed to opt out of the collection services and haul their own trash and recyclables to CSWD drop-off centers. Approximately 13 percent of Chittenden County households currently use CSWD drop-off centers, while 57 percent subscribe directly with a hauler and 20 percent use shared dumpsters.
Selectboard member Chris Roy expressed concern that under the terms of the proposal, lack of competition between private haulers could result in decreased customer service for residents.
Ted Siegler of DSM assured Roy that provisions can be built into a contract to guard against that scenario.
“In the short run, the answer is that the contracting entity—either the district or the municipality—has to make sure that customer complaints get dealt with by the hauler who wins the contract, and that there are specific provisions in that contract to require that they meet those service and quality standards,” Siegler said. “In the longer run, that hauler knows that three to five years out, they’re going to be bidding again against perhaps their competitors, so if their quality is bad or their service is bad, they’re not likely to win the bid the next time.”
Tom Moreau, CSWD general manager, added that 65 percent of the country uses a consolidated collection model because of its economies of scale and cost savings.
“We’re not trying to force this down anyone’s throat, but … there is a potential savings,” said Moreau. “If you look at the data, there’s a lot more communities that switched to consolidated collection than ever switched back, by far.”
No formal action was expected of the Selectboard, which plans to evaluate the report with Craig Abrahams, Williston’s representative on the CSWD Board of Commissioners.