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Town begins enforcement of recycling ordinance

BRATTLEBORO—Brattleboro’s mandatory recycling ordinance is now being enforced.

According to Moss Kahler, one of the Recycling Coordinators, on May 19 he would start traveling the trash collection route with Triple T Trucking and “sticker” 20 trash bags that show to contain recyclables.

Cindy Sterling also shares the Recycling Coordinator post.

Kahler said he would place a sticker on the trash bags explaining why they couldn’t be hauled away. He would also leave a letter explaining the enforcement procedure, and recycling educational materials.

Rejected trash bags, according to a town ordinance, cannot be left on the curb for more than 24 hours. If they are, said Town Manager Barbara Sondag, the Public Works Department can enforce their removal.

Trash bags containing recycling can be left on the curb and stickered once or twice, said Kahler. By the third time, fines kick in “and I certainly hope we never get to that.”

“We want to make this educational. It’s not 100 percent enforcement,” said Kahler, adding that he would also go to people’s homes to explain the recycling procedure in-depth if the household requests.

Kahler said last week’s enforcement kick off was preceded by teaching the Triple T drivers how to identify trash bags containing recycling.

The drivers brought a total of nine bags back from their routes, he said.

Kahler weighed the bags. Then he opened them and sorted the trash from recyclables.

Of the nine bags, eight contained between 30 and 81 percent recyclables. The ninth bag contained 100 percent recyclable bottles.

“It was very clear drivers could identify bags with copious amounts of recycling,” said Kahler.

It’s hard to know how many residents recycle 100 percent, how many sit in the middle range, and how many recycle nothing, said Kahler.

He estimates that about 10 to 15 percent of residents constitute non-recyclers or about 320 to 400 households in town.

Kahler said that many may not have gotten educational information, or the news that enforcement would take effect.

For residents who might be nervous that their trash will be left by the curb because of one recyclable item, Kahler said, “we can only reject the bags with lot’s of recycling.”

Kahler said he and Sterling will continue their media-based outreach. Kahler said he has a monthly column in the Brattleboro Reformer, a weekly Friday radio spot on WKVT-FM, as well as spots with Tim Johnson on WTSA-FM.

He hopes to get a group together to march in the Fourth of July parade as well.

Conversations with Peter Gaskill, general manager at Triple T, about setting up another “COW site” (commercial organic waste) are progressing, reported Kahler.

Gaskill is also ready to launch a pilot curb side compost pick-up service, said Kahler. People interested in joining the bi-weekly subscription services should contact Gaskill at 802-254-5388.

Selectboard Chair Dick DeGray said that if the town had approved the Pay-As-You-Throw trash disposal system last year, it would have eliminated all this effort.

Selectboard Clerk Dora Bouboulis said she did not support the enforcement track.

“We’re not ready for this,” she said.

She said she thought the Town Meeting Members had “education and outreach” in mind, not enforcement, when the voted for the Recycling Coordinator position at the march 2010 Representative Town Meeting.

Bouboulis also serves on the Windham Solid Waste Management District’s board of directors.

She described Kahler and Sterling’s recycling enforcement letter as “punitive” and using “harsh” language. Bouboulis added it didn’t take into consideration that 50 percent of Brattleboro households rent, and that landlords get “stuck with this.”

Also, the enforcement did not give residents any other avenue for getting their trash picked up if a mistake was made.

There’s still so much confusion about what is recyclable even among “super recyclers,” she said.

“I don’t support doing this at this time. I wish the education and outreach was done first,” Bouboulis said.

She cautioned that the town faced the danger that people will get angry and stop listening all together.

Selectboard member Ken Schneck suggested adding a sentence to the enforcement letter explaining how recycling helped everyone. Kahler liked that idea.

Selectboard member David Gartenstein disagreed with Bouboulis, saying recycling was not difficult. Instead, he felt the Recycling Coordinators’ one-year contract limited their time so they had to move quickly.

“It’ll be very interesting. I’ll be on pins and needles,” waiting for people’s reactions, said Kahler.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #102 (Wednesday, May 25, 2011).

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