MERRIMAC — Selectmen were notified last month that they had been awarded a MassDEP grant of $8,080 for a Bag-Based-Pay-As-You-Throw (PAYT) waste services upgrade and up to $10,000 to employ a waste reduction enforcement coordinator.
The town is one of only four towns statewide to receive this competitive PAYT bag transition grant approval. But the PAYT grant is now in jeopardy because the Board of Health has not included key language in their Solid Waste and Recycling Regulations that were just updated in October.
The transition from PAYT sticker program to a PAYT bag upgrade grant application process has been researched and shepherded by Jennifer Penney, selectmen’s administrator. It has been endorsed by selectmen in the hopes of boosting recycling rates and reducing the tax costs created by high tipping fees for waste disposal. The grant would defray the costs of switching from a colored sticker program to a colored bag program for designating trash.
The current program uses small stickers to mark trash from recycling in the trash barrel. Selectmen have consistently observed that the stickers are hard to identify inside the barrels and many mistakes are made that incorrectly send recycling to waste disposal instead of recycling. An easier method to visually identify trash from recycling might enhance recycling rates and reduce tipping fees at the waste disposal facility. The colored bags have received endorsement from other cities and towns as an effective identification tool.
Selectmen stress that a switch to bags would enhance the efficiency of pickup.
“More financial responsibility will be borne by purchase of the bags and less by tax dollars,” selectmen chairman Rick Pinciaro said. The bags will be filled only with trash and hauled away as such, thus less confusion of trash from recycling.
In order to receive the PAYT grant for which Merrimac has been approved, the town’s Solid Waste and Recycling Regulations must include language calling for “bundled or integrated pricing for trash and recycling.” Until now private trash haulers did not need to include recycling services in their pricing.