Pittsfield City Council looks at 'pay as you throw' trash pickup alternative

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PITTSFIELD — The word "toter" carries controversy as of late, and now the City Council is considering one way that could kick it to the curb for good.

The council last week heard a presentation from a representative of Waste Zero, a company that moves municipalities to bag-based "pay as you throw" trash pickup programs.

Ward 1 Councilor Helen Moon, Ward 5 Councilor Donna Todd Rivers and Ward 6 Councilor John Krol brought forward the petition to investigate alternatives after a tote-based plan failed to pass the council. Mayor Linda Tyer has said she would consider amendments to the trash pickup program after a series of neighborhood meetings that concluded last month.

The toter plan she proposed would relegate rubbish removal to 45-gallon and 96-gallon containers for trash and recycling, respectively.

A program like the one presented by Steve Lisauskas, a vice president of Waste Zero, would set similar trash pickup limits to those proposed under Tyer's plan, but haulers would pick up bags in place of totes.

Waste Zero manufactures the bags in various sizes and colors, and sells them to cities and local stores, where residents can purchase them. The city would distribute "at cost" coupons for the bags, he said. For example, to mirror the proposed tote program, the city could provide residents annually with 52 coupons to cover the cost of 52 bags at 45 gallons — or 104 coupons for 23-gallon bags — and when residents run out of coupons, they would purchase their own.

Lisauskas said the program could save the city about $400,000 annually between overflow bag revenue and disposal savings, and there are no costs associated with it, upfront or otherwise. He said the company makes its money by manufacturing and selling the bags themselves.

"It's much thicker than the average bag," he said.

Lisauskas said his company also provides consultation and roll-out services at no cost.

"We'll do as much or as little as the city wants," he said.

Another advantage, he said, is that the bag program can be easily manipulated at any time. Adjusting trash limits is a trickier endeavor when dealing with thousands of totes, he said.

"I love the idea that you can get them in all different sizes," Councilor At Large Melissa Mazzeo said. "I think that we're going in the right direction."

Lisauskas said he could roll out the program in as little as seven weeks, but prefers about three months' lead time.

Krol, who argues that the toter plan's associated savings don't justify the upfront costs, said that if officials are asking residents to make a major change, "ya better get some bang for your buck."

"You gotta save some money," he said, asserting that the bag program seems to be an option worth considering. "This program does that."

Still, Ward 2 Councilor Kevin Morandi said, it doesn't address the blight issue.

Health Director Gina Armstrong has said her department simply doesn't have the resources to handle all the trash-related blight complaints it gets, but Morandi said "if we were enforcing our ordinance in the first place, we probably wouldn't be in this predicament."

The Board of Health was scheduled to take up the plastic ban bag Wednesday, but the meeting was canceled because of snow. The topic is on the Board of Health agenda for Monday at 6 p.m.

Amanda Drane can be reached at adrane@berkshireeagle.com, @amandadrane on Twitter, and 413-496-6296.


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