NEWBURYPORT — City officials addressed residents’ questions on a proposed “one-cart-free” trash program Thursday night, discussing its potential impact on larger families

About 30 residents gathered in City Hall Auditorium Thursday night during the City Council’s Committee on Public Safety meeting to discuss the program, which is the subject of an ordinance that aims to reduce the city’s solid waste output and associated costs while also lessening the environmental impact.

Under the ordinance, each household would be give a 32-gallon cart for weekly trash disposal. Any trash that didn’t fit in the 32-gallon wheeled cart would have to be placed in crimson “pay as you throw bags” with the city’s logo, which residents would buy. The bags would be priced to partially offset the cost of hauling and disposing the garbage.

The bags would be sold at local stores for $2 per 15-gallon bag and $4 per 30-gallon bag, according to the draft ordinance.

At Thursday’s meeting, recycling and energy manager Molly Ettenborough said she believes the program would help the city cut trash disposal costs while encouraging residents to be more mindful about what they throw away.

Ward 4 Councilor Charles Tontar brought up concerns about the program he has heard from residents, one of which is that it would be unfair to large families that produce more trash.

Ettenborough said she hopes to help larger families find ways to cut their trash output so the program can work for them.

“We’d be happy to work with large families and help them figure out a way they can do that,” she said. “I think there are a lot of families that actually could fit their trash into one barrel, you just have to be conscientious about what you’re doing. There are a lot of alternatives.”

Tontar also said some people have said they worry the program might be a “hidden tax increase” or that it could cause residents to sneak trash into their recycling and dump trash illegally.

Ettenborough responded by saying that additional charges would simply be user fees, and that “you don’t have to pay anything at all if you can stay within the bounds of the program.”

Ettenborough also noted downtown businesses will continue to receive trash pickup from the city.

Several residents spoke in support of the proposed program, including Art Henshaw, who touted composting as an effective way of cutting down his household’s trash output.

“Since we started composting, I’d say the compost weighs about twice what we take out in the trash,” he said. “I would encourage you to do everything possible to support composting because I think it’s a great opportunity to reduce total tonnage of trash.”

Others, including resident John Demeritt, said they felt the program would pose problems for larger families, and pleaded with councilors to consider a larger cart size.

“We’ve struggled to get less than 64 gallons a week in trash. It seems to me that 32 (gallons) is a very unrealistic number, and it’s a real penalty to the residents of town,” said Demeritt, adding that he thinks 48 gallons would be a more reasonable cart size.

“Goals like this are lofty. Clearly there’s a waste problem in the country, but we need to look at the residents here and the impact on them,” added Demeritt.

Resident Sarah Hall, on the other hand, said she believes all households should be able to cut their trash by using the recycling center and the Black Earth composting program. Black Earth is a company that picks up compostable household scraps for a small fee.

“Anything over 32 gallons really feels like a choice,” said Hall. “You can choose to purchase the bags, but I’d like to see that as a disincentive. If people choose to do other things and we’re not selling the bags, I see that as a win because the goal here is to reduce waste.”

Ward 2 Councilor Jared Eigerman said he has been getting emails from Ward 2 residents “mostly in favor” of the proposed program, and that he feels it could lead to reductions in the city’s trash output.

“The bottom line is that we probably are just producing too much trash. I am persuaded by the data I saw from other communities that we are seeing reductions,” said Eigerman, adding that he believes the city would see diminishing returns if the program’s trash carts were bigger than the proposed 32-gallon size.

In addition, he proposed the idea of subsidizing composting for low-income families that are unable to afford it.

For more on the proposed trash ordinance, visit https://www.newburyportnews.com/news/local_news/councilor-fields-questions-at-newburyport-trash-talk-meeting/article_4d40230d-fe50-5629-923e-1440b5ba4af2.html

Staff writer Jack Shea covers Newbury­port City Hall. He can be reached via email at jshea@newburyportnews.com or by phone at 978-961-3154. Follow him on Twitter @iamjackshea.