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New Recycling Committee talks trash in Tilton

Marjorie Bonneville was named chair of the new Tilton Recycling Committee at its first meeting last week. Meghan Siegler. (click for larger version)
September 02, 2009
TILTON — The newly formed Tilton Recycling Committee met for the first time last week to discuss its purpose and gather background information about the town's current waste removal methods.

Department of Public Works Director Dennis Allen briefed the committee on Tilton's involvement with the Concord Regional Solid Waste/Resource Recover Cooperative and the potential to build and utilize a single-stream recycling center through the co-op. Tilton is one of 27 member communities, which currently pay $44.50 per ton to Wheelabrator. The co-op's contract with Wheelabrator ends this year, and while renegotiations haven't been finalized, Allen said, it looks like costs will increase to $62 or $63 per ton – and that's just the beginning. In the open field, the fair market price to get rid of garbage ranges from $80 to $90 per ton, Allen said.

"I see in the near future that the average per ton price is increasing dramatically," Allen said. "It's going to be a big cost to the town."

Selectmen representative Norm Boudreau said that because of the amount of trash it produces, Tilton currently pays $102 per person for waste removal, while the state average is $86. By coming up with some sort of recycling program, the Recycling Committee hopes to reduce the amount of waste produced by the town, which totals about 200 tons.

"We want to be closer to that average or less if we can do it," committee member David Fox said.

One strategy could include agreeing to join in on the co-op's plan to build a $13 million single-stream recycling center in Concord that would ultimately simplify the recycling process.

"The way it works is phenomenal," said Boudreau, who toured a similar facility in Massachusetts.

The $13 million center is self-funding, paid for with monies from the nonprofit co-op. The towns that utilize the recycling center will earn a profit; Allen estimated that about $15 to $20 a ton would go back to the town as revenue. As the market for recyclables increases, that number could increase as well.

"The market for all these recyclables tanked, back in October," Boudreau said. "They went from an all-time high to an all-time low."

According to Allen, who is Tilton's representative for the co-op, the single-stream recycling center is still on hold because some member towns aren't interested in participating. He said several have already invested in their own recycling programs. The co-op wants assurance that it will receive a bare minimum of 25,000 tons of recyclables per year before it moves forward, because that's the number where it makes building the center worth the money.

Allen said the co-op is currently seeking outside businesses and towns to join as associate members (with no voting rights and less of a return on recyclables) to meet those numbers. Locally, Sanbornton has agreed to sign on as an associate member.

Regardless of where or how Tilton decides to recycle, more recyclables means less trash disposal to pay for.

"Every ton that we can increase in recycling is a savings to the town," Allen said.

Marjorie Bonneville, who was elected committee chair at the end of the first meeting, said her household recycles faithfully, and if the town were to make recycling mandatory, there would be significantly less non-recyclable trash to remove.

"We would have more than twice the volume and twice the weight (if we didn't recycle)," Bonneville said.

Boudreau said that one of the things the committee can do is put together a warrant article for Town Meeting to see if voters will adopt a mandatory recycling program. The committee's goal over the next few months is to determine what kind of program it would like to put forward.

"I think the issue is whether you make it simple," Fox said.

"Show them the cost savings," added Allen, who admitted that right now it costs the town to recycle, since people bring their recyclables to the transfer station, and the town then has to transport them out.

Allen said he had asked the previous Board of Selectmen to do away with the transfer station, which is only open one and a half days a week and have residents bring their recyclables to Bestway in Belmont.

"There's a lot of costs that could be cut," Allen said.

Bonneville asked how the town would collect recyclables. The committee briefly discussed the pros and cons of contracting out the service or doing it in-house but agreed that it was a conversation for another day. Right now the town has a contract with Bestway, which runs through March of 2011.

"I'd rather pay our people than other people," committee member Catherine Higgins said.

The Recycling Committee will meet once in September, with the date and time to be noted on the town Web site. The members agreed to reassess their goals at that time and decide then whether to meet more frequently.

Martin Lord Osman
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