10 months into program, trash down 24% at transfer station

A full trailer of blue Pay-as-You-Throw bags at Rockport Transfer Station.Courtesy Photo/Brian Moore

ROCKPORT — Residents will pay less for “pay-as-you-throw” trash stickers next year after the program reduced the amount of refuse deposited at the town transfer station by 24 percent. 

Stickers are now $10 lower than their original price; the general public will pay $75, while seniors will pay $65.

In addition to a reduction in trash, the PAYT program has increased the amount of “dual-stream” recycling (paper and cardboard, co-mingled plastics, glass bottles and cans) collected by 10%.

“I’ve think (the results) have been amazing,” said Public Works Director Joe Parisi said. “We have been told if Rockport were like the other communities that changed over, we would see significant waste drops, and we’ve achieved that. It’s good to know this system works.”

Since June 2018, Rockport residents have been required to pay for each blue PAYT trash bag they toss at the transfer station. Bag prices differ based on the size and thickness.

This change came about after a vote from the by the Department of Public Works commissioners. The town used about $31,100 from a state grant to pay for its  stock of bags.

The new system was a shift from the old, two-tier system first adopted in 2008, which was essentially an opt-in PAYT program and a flat-rate option for single units. It so problematic that people as far as Wakefield began throwing away massive loads of trash for cheap.

“We found over 200 people we’re abusing the system,” transfer station foreman Brian Moore said. Some of these abuses, he explained, included passing one sticker around a group of people. Others would using the cheaper PAYT sticker to enter the transfer station, pose as a flat-rate member and throw away as much trash as they wanted without using the mandatory blue bags. Moore also said he caught people using the flat-rate option to dispose of trash from multiple units, sometimes as many as of 12.

The transfer station’s two full-time employees -- Moore and operations supervisor Don Greel — could not keep up with the amount of the abuse. 

“From opening to close, there would be lines to get in the transfer station,” Moore said. “Sometimes there would be a lull during lunch time, but every day it was just nonstop.”

In 2015, the state Department of Environmental Protection reported Rockport averaged 1,801 pounds of trash per household each year. At the same time, Manchester and Gloucester, who both use the PAYT system, had 1,120 pounds and 1,046 pound per household, respectively.

Before the mandatory switch, Moore said he would have “two, two-and-a-half” pulls from the trash trailer a week, “sometimes three in extreme cases.” Now, the station has been averaging only one pull a week. The amount of recycling compactors sent out per week has increased from two to around three or four.

Moore expects more trash to come once the summer begins. Typically, a group of part-time workers help out during these busy months. 

The DPW is still looking at ways to improve trash collection. Parisi said he wants to curb the amount household and business trash being disposed of in public trash barrels. Other improvements include providing additional staff time at the transfer station, considering additional disposal opportunities for food waste items and household hazardous waste materials, and backing initiatives to reduce recycling contamination.

“We made some pretty good gains switching over,” Parisi said, “and there’s some growing pains in that as well.”

Michael Cronin may be contacted at 978-675-2708, or mcronin@gloucestertimes.com.