Simpler rules have Bedford recycling, and saving money

BEDFORD – Residents who recycle helped save taxpayers about $67,000 in 2008.

But it could be better.

Bedford still paid $589,600 to throw out its trash last year.

The town pays a disposal company $67 a ton to take its solid waste, and in 2008, Bedford threw out 8,800 tons of waste, said Public Works Director Jim Stanford.

Recycling, on the other hand, is free to the town, because the company that hauls away recyclables can sell those materials.

That’s one reason Bedford hopes residents will recycle more. That appears to be happening now thanks to a move to single-stream recycling that’s making it easier than ever.

From Jan. 1 to Sept. 1, when residents had to sort their recyclables, Bedford recycled just under 600 tons, Stanford said.

But after single-stream started Sept. 1, Bedford recycled nearly 400 tons in just four months.

With single-stream, which is also how Nashua recycles, residents don’t have to to sort materials like bottles and paper; they just throw it all in the same bin.

“It doesn’t get any easier,” the flier announcing single-stream recycling read.

Stanford thinks the “grand opening” for single-stream recycling at the transfer station in October helped raise awareness and boost the numbers.

“I hope it just keeps going up and up, as far as the recycling participation,” said Stanford. “We’re only three months into this now. We’re going to have to see, but clearly, the increase we’ve seen is an awful lot of recycling.”

It may not be as much recycling as other towns do, quite yet.

Bedford had one of the lowest recycling rates in the region in 2007, according to a state official quoted in an October article in The Telegraph.

Bedford was last in a comparison with 10 other towns’ recycling rates for noncommercial waste, according to an estimate by Don Maurer of the Department of Environmental Services.

Those towns were Amherst, Hollis, Hudson, Litchfield, Manchester, Merrimack, Milford, Pelham, Wilton and Windham.

The cost of dumping trash is one factor driving towns to require recycling.

Paying $67 a ton can add up – to more than a half-million dollars in 2008 – and Bedford is fortunate to pay only that much, said Stanford.

By comparison, Litchfield transfer station staff member Bruce Mason said his town pays about $88 a ton.

When station attendants there see people throwing away recyclables like glass – a heavy material that pushes waste tonnage up – they ask them to put those things in recycling instead. They get a variety of responses, including hostile ones, said Mason.

“We hear it all,” said Mason. “Some people feel they pay taxes so they can do whatever they want. Well, their taxes would go down a little if they recycled.”

Litchfield doesn’t impose a penalty when people don’t cooperate with the town’s recycling rules, but that’s not the case in every town.

In Candia, attendants also monitor the transfer station to make sure people aren’t throwing away recyclable material like glass. But they not only stop residents and ask them to put those materials in the correct bin; they can also impose a fine.

In many ways, rules governing what can be thrown out and what can be separated from the landfill trash are a big improvement over the old days, Stanford said.

For example, “Why take up valuable landfill space with brush when it’s a resource? You can sell the chips,” Stanford said.