Our Opinion: Getting handle on Pittsfield trash flow
When cities boast, recycling rates are rarely mentioned. In Pittsfield, there's a reason: They're nothing to brag about.
The city lags the state average on recycling, but that poor showing can improve if a proposal to revamp trash collection advances.
Last week, the city's Resource Recovery Committee backed a commonsense plan that would improve recycling rates (now a dismal 11 percent) by giving people a monetary incentive to throw less away.
Unlike many communities, Pittsfield has continued to allow households to toss out as much as they want, with no financial consequences. Not surprisingly, too few people reduce the flow of trash by culling out objects that can be recycled.
The committee's proposal calls for an upfront investment of around $113,000, but the benefits would be real — now and in the future.
Rather than have households leave trash in their own cans at the curb, people in roughly 17,550 residences would use new plastic bins called "toters" — a 35-gallon one for weekly trash pickups and a 95-gallon bin for twice-monthly recycling runs. Anyone with trash beyond the 35-gallon limit would pay more.
At the same time, the recycling program would be simplified. Instead of separating paper goods from glass and metal, all materials would go in the big bins. That alone will spur more people to recycle. Further, the recycling bins would have covers, unlike the open-topped bins now in use. That will cut down on litter.
Change is hard, but Pittsfield's trash-collection practices need to be updated. Mayor Linda Tyer was wise to reactivate the Resource Recovery Committee last fall and charge it with finding smarter and more efficient ways of handling trash and recyclables.
Remember, this was to be the year that Covanta Pittsfield, the big regional waste-handler, was to close its Hubbard Avenue plant. The City Council approved an emergency measure in October that will keep Covanta here for four years.
But there are no promises beyond that. If the city had to ship trash outside the region, costs would jump. Getting residents to recycle more isn't only good for the planet's resources, it can save the city money.
Before he was dismissed last week by the mayor, Bruce Collingwood, the commissioner of public utilities, helped propel this plan. Tyer needs to find a successor as committed as Collingwood to this effort.
Previous attempts to modernize the system stalled. That's nothing to brag about. We encourage Pittsfield to move swiftly, through a code change and City Council review and approval, to get this up and running.
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