Last year, the town spent $400,000 to go to a single-stream recycling system to save money, avoid injuries and, o yea, it was good for the environment too.
Well, it has worked.
The town has increased recycling by 70 percent since new, 96-gallon recycling containers have been distributed to every resident, according to Finance Director Rudie Beers. That also means the town should bring in another $50,000 in revenue for recycling this year, and avoid even more costs in disposing of solid wastes, she said.
The town pays $60 per ton to get rid of its solid waste, according to Public Works Director Ron Cusano. Meanwhile, it receives $5 to $40 per ton of garbage it recycles, meaning if a ton of waste is recycled instead of being thrown away, it could save the town $100, he said.
“It has been a very successful program,” Cusano said. “It has really been a smooth transition for us.”
the public works department distributed 96-gallon recycling containers – the same size as the normal trash container – to all town residents. The new bins cost $400,000, and the town had to buy two more trucks that pick up the containers, but sold three recycling trucks, Cusano said.
“When we did it, we were looking at a 10-year payoff,” First Selectman Dan Steward said.
There were several goals of the program. The first was to encourage people to recycle more, as the 96-gallon containers are far bigger than the 15-gallon buckets the residents used to have, and the town can now recycle more products, Cusano said.
Also, because the recycling containers are now more than six times larger than the older containers, the town is picking up recyclables every other week instead of every week. That allowed the public works department to use workers normally assigned to only recycling in other areas every other week, a necessary flexibility considering the town eliminated four positions at public works for budget constraints, according to Cusano.
Another benefit has been the reduction of workforce injuries, Cusano said. Before, when somebody drove the recycling truck, they would have to separate the recyclables and pick up every container themselves by hand, he said.
“Guys would have to do that 700 times a day,” Cusano said.
Many of them would get hurt, and that would mean expensive workers’ compensation claims to the town, he said. Now, with the larger containers, everything is automated and the employees just have to drive the truck and use the mechanical arm to pick up the containers, Cusano said.
“Before, we would get workers’ compensation claims, and those claims would be long and repetitive,” Beers said. “Since we’ve had the new program, we have not had a single claim associated with picking up recyclables.”
Cusano said moral has increased as well. Before, guys hated driving the recycling truck, now they don’t mind, he said.
“I’m pretty proud of it,” Cusano said. “And the guys like it too. They weren’t sad to see recycling in the old trucks go. To go automated, it is a good job. And it has been working out for the town.”