Hopkinton explores ways to improve waste management

By SRUTHI GOPALAKRISHNAN

Monitor staff

Published: 05-04-2023 8:08 PM

In an effort to cover hauler and tipping costs,  Hopkinton is considering new measures to boost participation in the town’s pay-by-bag program and match bag prices with those of neighboring municipalities.

“We are looking for an option that hasn’t been tried before that would increase green bag usage as much as possible by making as little structural change as possible,” said Thomas Lipoma, a select board member.

To address this issue, the select board is considering raising the price of the 13-gallon bag from $0.75 to $1.50. The town is also considering incentivizing commercial haulers who bring pay-by-bag waste to the transfer station by offering them credit.

Hopkinton implemented the pay-by-bag program in 2010, which has since maintained a constant price for the bags without any increase. However, tipping fees have increased, and the current price of the bags doesn’t cover the entire cost of the system, said Lipoma.

The town is considering paying haulers between $100 to $200 per ton for a load of the pay-by-bag green bags to encourage greater utilization of the program.

Until recently, the select board didn’t have the ability to change the prices of the trash bags to match the disposal costs without a town meeting. But, a warrant article passed last year now allows the select board to adjust the price without requiring a town meeting.

Members of the select board said that this was the starting point of the conversation and it would work with the Waste Reduction Committee and Transfer Station to develop a proposal that would go through the process of public hearings to address the town’s waste management strategy. 

At a recent meeting, it was reported that only 11% of the town's residents currently utilize the pay-by-bag program and take their waste to the transfer station. Meanwhile, the majority of residents, approximately 65%, rely on curbside collection for their waste disposal needs.

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Although Hopkinton residents are eager to reduce their waste with the bags, they have expressed concerns with the program.

Deborah Pomerleau, a newcomer to the town said when she tried to purchase the bags from the town hall, she was informed that they were out of stock. She faced the same situation while shopping at a grocery store that carries the bags.

“That meant planning on being here when the town hall was open or heading in the opposite direction to the grocery store over here to get the bags,” said Pomerleau.“We came into this willing to do the pay-by-bag but it wasn't convenient.”

Another resident, Linda Kimball, raised concerns about the program adding more plastic to the waste stream and urged the town to look at other options.

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