Our Opinion: Realism needed on Pittsfield trash

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The new recycling contract that Pittsfield has signed is indeed part of a "paradigm shift" for all of Western Massachusetts as described by Finance Director Matt Kerwood. Pittsfield should follow up with a "paradigm shift" for all of its trash collection.

China's decision to stop accepting recycled waste from the United States and other nations has forced states and the communities within them to make other arrangements and quickly. On Tuesday night, the City Council voted unanimously to approve a city contract with state-owned Springfield Materials Recycling Facility to take its recyclables. The five-year contract begins on July 1 and will cost Pittsfield a projected $178,000 in fees over the deal's first year ("New 5-year contract reflective of 'paradigm shift'"), Eagle, Jan. 30).

Having to pay for recycling will take some getting used to for Pittsfield but the city will need to make some overdue adjustments when it comes to other areas of trash disposal.

Pittsfield has a recycling rate of about 11 percent in a state where the recycling rate is roughly 32 percent. Councilor at large Peter White and others brought up the idea of a partial pay-as-you-throw plan to increase the recycling rate and lower costs. This concept has been a non-starter in the past.

Observing that "It's time to start talking about trash again," Councilor at large Earl Persip III said "we can't keep throwing out everything we want and then expect the tax rate to go down." Solid waste costs climb annually and the city will soon have to negotiate a new contract with Community Eco Power on Hubbard Avenue.

In 2018, Mayor Linda Tyer proposed a tote-based trash system that several councilors requested be adjusted to their liking. The mayor did so and was turned down again. At this point it became obvious that the totes were a victim of the early stages of the city election campaign and the mayor wasn't going to be given anything she could trumpet as a victory. Totes have been introduced in other Berkshire towns and we urge the mayor to resurrect her plan and introduce it to the new City Council now that the election is behind the city.

Pittsfield has long been spoiled by an extremely resident-friendly trash pickup system, and its days are coming to an end. Residents need to be realistic as city leaders explore alternatives that will cost money but won't cost an exorbitant amount of money if residents will increase their recycling rates and back a new trash collection system that will work if given the chance.

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