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Since start of pay-as-you-throw trash program, New Windsor's overall waste generation drops 26%

Since start of pay-as-you-throw trash program, New Windsor's overall waste generation drops 26%
José Urias of Ecology Services Refuse and Recycling collects trash in New Windsor on Wednesday, Jan. 2. (Dylan Slagle / Carroll County Times)

Since the launch in early November of New Windsor’s Fair Trash Reduction pay-as-you-throw pilot program, the town has seen overall waste generation decrease by 26%, according to the county Department of Public Works.

That tonnage decrease is the result of a 41% tonnage decrease in solid waste, combined with a 35% increase in the tonnage of material that is recycled.

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“It’s like a new utility. You pay for what you throw away,” Jeff Castonguay, director of the Carroll County Department of Public Works, said at the Board of County Commissioners’ Thursday meeting.

Since implementing the FuTuRe program, annual tonnage has decreased from over 240 tons to about 180 tons, according to the Department of Public Works. Households are trending toward saving $58 annually from tip fees and saving from not needing to purchase regular trash bags, according to the department.

The makeup of the waste stream in New Windsor has changed, too. Before the program, the waste stream was 81% curbside trash and 19% curbside recycling. Now that the pilot has been implemented, and residents pay for trash but do not pay for recycling, the stream is 64% curbside trash and 36% curbside recycling.

The program requires town residents to use specialized garbage bags to have their waste picked up. Residents can purchase small or large bags.

The small bags, which hold 15 gallons, cost 65 cents each, and the large bags, which hold 33 gallons, cost $1.20 each. Recycling is free.

Both the small and large bags can also be bought in sleeves of five. A small bag sleeve costs $3.25, and a large bag sleeve costs $6. Residents were given $35 gift cards to the local 7-Eleven to help cover those costs during the pilot.

Processing less waste can be cheaper for jurisdictions. In New Windsor, for example, the tipping fee the town pays at the county landfill is eliminated and replaced with the bag fee, meaning town funds can be reallocated to other areas — or local taxes can be lowered.

Material not sent to landfills can, alternatively, be recycled, composted or incinerated to generate electricity. The biggest savings, Castonguay said, comes from space that is saved in the county landfill.

“We don’t have any property to put [a new landfill on], or locations that would be willing to put up some space,” Castonguay said. “So that’s really where we see the most savings on this.”

Two months into the program, the town saw a 44% reduction in solid waste and an increase in its recycling rate from 21% to 38%, with a near 100% participation rate.

Castonguay said he’s heard good things from New Windsor so far, and the town wants to continue the program if possible. Resident calls to the town about the program have “decreased,” and participation is trending high. During the last collection day, project specialist Scott Graf said, 41 homes had no trash set out at all, only recycling bins.

The pilot is being administered through WasteZero, a North Carolina-based firm that says it has administered successful pay-as-you-throw programs in several towns in Massachusetts, Maine and New Hampshire.

The company has said in the past that the reduction in New Windsor’s solid waste is a demonstration of a pay-as-you-throw program being viable in Carroll County. Kristen Brown, vice president of waste reduction strategy with the company, told the commissioners Thursday that she was pleased with the results and the numbers she’s seen in New Windsor look similar to results she’s seen in other communities.

She characterized the results so far as a “dramatic drop in trash,” and said she believed a pay-as-you-throw program could be successful countywide.

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The pilot in New Windsor is set to expire July 1. Whether it will be extended in New Windsor or expanded to other locations in Carroll County has yet to be determined.

The Board of County Commissioners on Thursday voted to move management of the program from the county level to the town level when the pilot expires over the summer. Commissioners said that’s how they’d like to see pilots managed in the future — started with county support and then transitioned to town-level management.

Commissioner Ed Rothstein said the program, if expanded in Carroll County, could be “a model that can be looked at across the state” for other municipalities to consider.

Commissioner Dennis Frazier said he’d want WasteZero to take the results and numbers from the New Windsor pilot to the municipalities in Carroll to see if they’re interested in trying a similar program.

This story has been updated.

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