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Tilton to hold Q & A meeting for new trash system

The curbside recycling program approved at Tilton’s annual town meeting is in place and doing well, however, implementation of part two to reduce trash, a pay-as-you-throw system, is not yet in place due to confusion by some residents.

To remedy this, the board will hold a public meeting Thursday where it can address specific questions and concerns.

“A large percentage of people don’t really know what’s going on, so that’s what the meeting is going to be about,” said Pat Consentino, chairwoman of the board of selectman. “It’s to put the questions to rest, saying this is what’s happening, this is why it’s happening, this is when it’s happening.”

Pay-as-you-throw systems aim to reduce waste by requiring residents to buy special bags to dispose of their trash. The cost of the bags, $1 for a 15-gallon bag and $1.50 for a 33-gallon bag in Tilton, encourages recycling, which in turn reduces the town’s cost to dispose of the trash.

Through the curbside recycling program, residents were given recycling bins that will be emptied every two weeks. The program took effect July 8, and Consentino said the town collected 9 tons of recycling during the first pickup and more than 11 tons during the second. The town is not charged for disposing recyclable materials.

“The ultimate goal is to keep the cost of our trash down,” she said. “We pay almost $400,000 for garbage right now, so we’re trying to offset that by having people recycle. And then with pay-as-you-throw, whatever doesn’t go in the recycling bin has to fit in these purple bags.”

Incentive to recycle

Tilton has been investigating how to cut down on solid waste and the cost of disposing it for several years. Selectman Joseph Jesseman is a member of the recycling committee that was asked to find a solution to the dilemma four years ago.

Jesseman said the committee organized town cleanup days, held yard sales and distributed educational fliers to try to encourage recycling, but the weight of material the town recycled remained the same.

The group finally settled on implementing the pay-as-you-throw program, which was passed at the March town meeting.

“It’s a model that has been used all over the United States, not just in New Hampshire,” he said. “It’s an incentive for people to recycle. And they have a tendency to try new and interesting ways of recycling, like reusing things, going to composting or making choices about what they buy.”

Requiring residents to buy specific pay-as-you-throw trash bags means residents look at recycling from an economic standpoint in addition to an environmental one, much like the town does. Jesseman said the cost of the bags is necessary to offset the additional $87,000 annual cost of curbside recycling for the town. While the committee considered other options to subsidize the cost, such as raising taxes, pay-as-you-throw seemed the most likely to pass muster with voters.

Concord’s success

Jesseman hopes Tilton achieves successes similar to what nearby towns have seen since implementing pay-as-you-throw. For example, Concord, he said, has decreased its solid waste by 42 percent since the city introduced the program in 2009.

Chip Chesley, director of general services for Concord, agreed the system has made a monumental difference.

“One thing that took us by surprise was just how quickly people changed their disposal habits,” he said. “We thought it may take a year or so for the results we were looking for . . . and we achieved them almost instantaneously.”

Concord started exploring pay-as-you-throw due to a significant increase in the solid waste tipping fee, Chesley said. The solid waste services are supported by both a special revenue fund and money from the general fund, and the city would have needed to use a much larger amount of money from the general fund in order to keep up with the rising costs.

Instead, Concord introduced pay-as-you-throw and cut the general funds used by solid waste services from $2.9 million to $1.4 million.

Similar to the town of Tilton, Chesley said the city made sure to adequately explain the system to residents.

“I think they were interested, but they were cautious,” he said. “We spent a good amount of time with the public at various forums discussing the pros of going to a pay-as-you-throw system while we were looking at it, and why it was right for Concord to look at it now.”

When Concord did finally implement the program, Chesley said the city received no complaints from residents.

Consentino hopes Thursday’s informational meeting helps accomplish the same for Tilton. The board has not set an official date for the program to begin because they want to be sure residents are comfortable with it first, she said.

“We wanted everybody to be as well informed as they can, and judging by the phone calls we’re getting, they’re not,” she said. “The sooner we start the program the better, because we have the products, we have the bags and we’re ready to go, we just want to make sure everybody’s informed.”

The bags will go on sale at area stores about two weeks before the implementation of the program. Locations that will sell them include Bryant & Lawrence True Value Hardware, The Store and Walgreens.

Jesseman, who became involved in the town for the sake of promoting recycling, said he hopes residents support the program and the idea of paying for your own trash.

“I equate garbage with things like sewage and water,” he said. “It’s a municipal endeavor. We all pay for the infrastructure involved . . . but you pay for your own usage. I get a sewer bill, I get a water bill; well, garbage is going to be the same thing. The only difference is you’re not going to get a bill once a quarter, you’re going to pay for those bags.”

Thursday’s meeting will be held at the Tilton Town Hall at 6 p.m.

(Mel Flanagan can be reached at 369-3321 or
mflanagan@cmonitor.com.)

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