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Town talks trash

Residents, haulers concerned about how to comply with new state recycling law

DUMMERSTON—To help residents prepare for Act 148, Vermont’s new regulations regarding rubbish, the Dummerston Selectboard scheduled a “trash talk” for its regular June 10 meeting.

Michelle Cherrier, representative to the Windham Solid Waste Management District (WSWMD), spoke at length about the changes coming as of July 1 on how residents must deal with their garbage.

She was joined by representatives from three trash-hauling companies that serve Dummerston: Cheryl Franklin of Franklin & Son Rubbish Removal, Craig Goodenough of Goodenough Rubbish Removal, and Reed Cutting of Reed & Sons Rubbish Removal.

Many residents have not been separating recyclables from their regular trash, and there has been no requirement they do so.

But, Cherrier said, “The state will require recycling [as of July 1], and we must be prepared for it.”

Attendees and members of the Selectboard asked Cherrier and the haulers about what can be recycled, composted, or sent to the regular trash; where to bring recyclables; and how to prepare them for haulers to remove.

Cherrier said WSWMD currently publishes lists of what can be recycled.

Selectboard Vice-Chair Joe Cook said his trash hauler sent him a letter, but he does not think it is the best way to disseminate information. He is still unsure what to do about separating his trash.

Because the process is new for many residents, board member Steve Glabach recommended putting on the town’s official website “a decent poster so people understood what the hell’s got to be recycled [and] what’s trash.”

The new regulations are “confusing, even to the people who are trying” to comply, Glabach said.

One issue is, not all haulers haul the same way. Some collect “single-stream” recycling, where all recyclables go in the same bin. But, as Cutting noted, the state prefers “dual-stream,” which separates paper and cardboard from glass, plastic, and aluminum cans.

Cutting said dual-stream trucks are expensive for small haulers like his company, and are often too big for roads like those in Dummerston.

But, he said, “the state made this law and we all have to abide by it.”

The common denominator shared by all haulers is how to prepare the recyclables: put them in whatever bin your hauler requests, separate from the regular trash. Do not put them in bags.

And, make sure they are clean.

If the recyclable container has food residue on it, “it’s considered contaminated and it’s trash,” Franklin said. “That’s the way the law reads.”

Franklin said she asked the state to make a single-sheet poster, similar to what Glabach recommended, to instruct residents. She said the state’s response was that she should make the poster, then send it to them.

Instead, she sent a letter to her customers, asking them to call her office, because everyone has different questions.

It worked, and Franklin said she has been fielding a lot of questions. She noted, “no one really has a problem with it, they just have to be educated.”

Others were not as convinced of universal public compliance.

A discussion ensued on the “teeth” of Act 148, and whether any policing would occur.

Board member Jerelyn Wilson asked Franklin if her company “would stop serving someone” if they did not comply with the recycling law.

Franklin said a few customers have expressed their fear that they’ll “do something wrong,” so they asked her, “Will you put a sticker on the bin or call me?” if they incorrectly separate their trash.

She is looking into having stickers printed with a checklist of which items were put in the wrong bins or bags, but Franklin said her company does not plan to refuse to pick up the refuse.

“We don’t want to leave a bunch of [trash] everywhere,” so, they will likely take the trash and leave a sticker on the empty bin, explaining what the customer can do better next time.

“We’re trying to be as flexible as we can,” she said.

Wilson also asked Cherrier and the haulers, “What’s the consequence of people putting recyclables in with their trash? If it’s in a black plastic bag and nobody can see [the contents], and the hauler picks it up,” will anyone know?

Goodenough said, “At this point, there’s no policing.”

“There are people who will ignore anything you tell them,” Franklin said, adding these people “are just going to do the status quo after July 1.”

Cherrier said she is unaware of any policing, but noted the trash “could be refused by” the WSWMD at their facility on Old Ferry Road in Brattleboro.

This is where some haulers, and those who deal with their own household rubbish, bring their garbage and recyclables.

For residents who can or will not spend the time or money to comply with Act 148, or “who can’t be bothered, how much trash do we expect is going to be thrown off the bank?” asked Cook.

In response, a chorus arose from attendees and board members: “A lot!”

From her discussions with others in the WSWMD, Cherrier said there is a “burst” at first of people not complying with trash regulations, and then that decreases as the public learns the new system.

“There’s not enough space, not just on our coast of the country, or in our country, to bury everything, or put it in the ocean, or to send it out to space,” Cherrier said, adding, “we have to stop being consumers and start being sustainable, and recycling is simply one mechanism to help us become sustainable.”

Cherrier also noted the precarious future of the large roll-off recycling bins located at the town garage. She said that because the bins are expensive, there is the possibility they may not be there forever, necessitating residents without a trash hauler to bring recyclables to Old Ferry Road.

Lester Dunklee, who serves with Cherrier as a representative to the waste district, said the plan is to leave the roll-off bins in place at least until the autumn, then evaluate whether to keep or remove them.

Cook questioned if Dummerston’s trash haulers will have the capacity to deal with the increase in recyclables if the district removes the bins.

Goodenough replied, “We’ll have to.”

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Originally published in The Commons issue #310 (Wednesday, June 17, 2015). This story appeared on page C1.

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