New London to explore pay-per-bag trash system
New London – The City Council on Monday voted in favor of exploring the idea of a pay-as-you-throw trash system, a topic that continues to generate heated debate among residents and councilors alike.
Some see it simply as an added tax for a trash pickup service already funded through taxes. Others see the potential to curb the rising cost of waste disposal and become more environmentally friendly.
The city, as a result of the council’s 5-2 vote, will use $54,360 in state grant money to explore a program being pitched by the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection which has contracted with Waste Zero, the company that would complete the study for the city and also serve as the sole vendor.
The idea is to reduce municipal solid waste by educating the public on the benefits of recycling while requiring that all solid waste be disposed of in special bags that need to be purchased from the city. The largest bags would cost $1 and have a 33-gallon capacity.
Like other councilors who voiced skepticism, councilor John Satti said he supported the concept of a study and potential of the program, but said he was not ready to support its implementation.
Public Works Director Brian Sear said the money will be used for a study and outreach to residents about the benefits of the program. The program itself is not intended to generate revenue but rather reduce costs of waste disposal by encouraging recycling.
Ronna Stuller, who spoke during a public comment period at Monday’s meeting, said she was in favor of the program but like others worried about an increase in illegal dumping especially in vulnerable areas of the city, such as Bates Woods and Riverside Park.
“The city needs to have a plan from the start,” Stuller said.
Bill Cornish lamented the fact the city no longer had a bulky waste pickup and called the concept of a pay-as-you-throw system “grossly unfair.” Cornish said before changing systems the city needed to explore other ideas, such as privatizing waste collection.
“It’s going to be a mess. It’s predictable,” Cornish said.
Councilor Alma Nartatez expressed optimism that the study would lead to new ideas for the city and a chance to take a proactive approach in the face of rising waste disposal fees.
“I’m excited to see what they come back with,” Nartatez said.
Voting against the measure were councilors Martin Olsen and Michael Tranchida. Tranchida was skeptical that the acceptance of the grant money and the wording of the vote would put the city in a position of having to implement the program.
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