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Montville holding info session on pay-as-you-throw trash program

Montville — The Town Council on Wednesday night will hold its third informational meeting on the pay-as-you-throw trash program designed to reduce solid waste and increase recycling.

The session follows public outcry last month that officials failed to adequately give notice of previous meetings and didn't provide enough details on the program, which only impacts residents who use the town's transfer station. Some residents hire private haulers to pick up their trash. 

The 7 p.m. meeting at Town Hall, will include a presentation by the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection on the program, dubbed SMART (Save Money And Reduce Trash).

Town Council Chairman Tom McNally said Monday that officials postponed a vote on the program in June "in the interest of getting more information out."

"We will have to see what kind of response we get at this next meeting and gauge it from there in order to make an educated decision on when, if at all, to implement the program," McNally said. 

He added that longtime transfer station worker Florence Turner and other employees "have been doing a great job talking about the issue, handing out flyers on recycling" and letting folks know about Wednesday's meeting.

"Once people are educated they are OK with the concept," he said. "There's always a few that are just dead set against it."

State officials have recently pitched different versions of the program to Montville, New London and Ledyard. Stonington has used the program for two decades but East Lyme stopped in the late 1990s after using it for six years.

Montville currently provides curbside recycling pickup, but not trash. If pay-as-you-throw is approved as proposed, residents using the transfer station will receive 50 plastic bags from the town when they pay their $55 annual sticker fee.

Residents producing more trash could buy 30- or 15-gallon bags at local stores, at $2 or $1.25, respectively. But officials say they're open to options on prices, bag sizes and the number of free bags given out to residents when they pay their sticker fees.

At an informational session last month, several residents scoffed at the idea they could jam all their trash into a single bag each week. But the state says average households in the 500-plus New England towns and cities using the program only need one weekly bag.

According to information recently posted on the town website after residents clamored for more details, officials say the system "is a fairer way to pay for trash collection," because currently all taxpayers are covering most of the town's $477,000 in waste disposal expenses.

The SMART program shifts costs to residents who use the transfer station the most, based on their volume of trash. Officials say the program could boost recycling and reduce solid waste by 45 percent.

Montville recycles the sixth-most among area towns in terms of pounds per person, at 152.3. New London recycles 95.5 pounds per person, and Ledyard about 162 pounds per person.

Montville residents dispose of about 700 pounds of trash on average, compared to an average of 425 pounds per person in SMART communities. Stonington disposes of 389 pounds of trash per person, according to DEEP.

Several town councilors and Turner say the town should also consider increasing the $3 one-time visit fee to the transfer station or capping the number of bags residents can drop at the transfer station on a given day. Currently, Turner said, some residents dump as much as a truckload in a single visit. Some of that trash may belong to other residents.

b.kail@theday.com

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