The largest suburb in Western New York is making an overhaul of its garbage and recycling system. And like the City of Buffalo, Amherst will soon offer large totes to collect more material that can be recycled.
The Town Supervisor of Amherst says the new system will be good for the environment and the town's budget.
When Amherst Town Supervisor Barry Weinstein talks about the new contract for picking up trash and recycling that begins in January, one phrase keeps coming up: “And there’s more," said Weinstein.
Amherst has accepted a bid from Modern Corporation to begin when the contract with Waste Management expires at the end of the year. Weinstein says the town had been looking for ways to provide incentives for Amherst to recycle more and make money, and he's excited about what the New Year -- and new contract -- will bring.
“We have a contract now where we get approximately $100,000 for our recycling every year. It doesn't change whether we do well or don't do well,” says Weinstein. “We also pay per household for picking up and hauling and disposing of our trash, and again that doesn't vary. If we put less trash in the landfill, we don't get any benefit from it. If we put more trash in, it doesn't cost any more because we're paying by the unit.”
Weinstein said this new five-year contract with Modern Corporation is different, and it will cost the town $2 million dollars less per year. During the first year, Amherst residents will see a million dollars of that going to reducing taxes. That breaks down to your tax bill costing about $30 less.
The other million dollars will go toward a one-time purchase of totes on wheels for recycling that are about two-thirds the size of the totes used for garbage.
“Our plan is to use some of the savings on this contract to buy 65-gallon totes so people could put all their recyclable material in one tote; just throw it in,” Weinstein says. “And almost everything is recyclable under the new program.”
That includes the full spectrum of plastics from number one to seven, which includes yogurt cups and plastic plates. Pizza boxes, even old kitchen cookware, can be tossed in. Residents won't need to keep their paper separated from the rest anymore. Modern does that once the items go to its facility in Lewiston.
Joe Hickman is the sales and municipal accounts manager at Modern.
“The materials, as they go through the process, there is a combination of mechanical and manual sorting. And essentially what the facility does is allows for materials to be processed faster and in a larger quantity,” says Hickman. “And that's why the mixing of materials are allowed -- because the machinery, the equipment, the staff and the way it’s designed can process the material faster, which makes it cost-effective than sorting it and categorizing it at the street's edge in the trucks.”
Hickman says the philosophy is the more items you're allowed to toss into the recycling bin, the more likely you'll recycle.
"We found that when you start having to give a lot of thought to something you're doing, people lose interest in it,” Hickman says. “So, therefore, we opened up our menus to include items that are traditionally not as well-received in the marketing of recycling because they have a lesser value. However, it makes people stop and think, ‘is it, or isn’t it (recyclable)?’ If they decide they're not going to recycle it because they don't think it's part of the program and it really is part of the program, then it could be lost in the waste.”
Weinstein says the Town of Amherst expects to cash in on the increase in recycling.
"As our recycling goes up, our benefit per recycled ton is going to go up also,” says Weinstein. “The cost of processing the recyclable material is going to go down, and we pegged it to the marketplace for recyclable materials, so if the market goes up, we'll get more. And we have a floor there. They originally offered us $28.50, we set the floor at $28 with the potential of going up to $35, markedly increasing our recyclable revenue. And there’s more.”
An incentive program will offers discounts to residents to encourage them to recycle.
"Simply by registering for the program, they become a tier-one participant and they're entitled to discount coupons to local businesses,” says Hickman. “And then what happens after that is as residents participate and certain benchmarks are achieved within the municipality as far as recycling participation in terms of tons, everybody who’s registered then moves up to that second tier.”
Which leads to more discounts at national chains.
Amherst will also pay landfill charges per ton in this new contract, instead of paying per unit. Weinstein believes this could save the town even more money as more would-be trash gets recycled through this program, and the town's electronic recycling program.
"We started electronic recycling in April,” says Weinstein. “We've got several big bins at the highway department. People drop off their electronic recycling material and it picks up by a company called Sun King two or three times a week. So we've taken all this electronic material out of the landfill cycle.”
Weinstein says there will be no penalty for not recycling, just positive reinforcement for those who do. And if you don’t have enough room to house the recycling tote, Amherst plans on offering smaller ones upon request.
The town hopes to distribute the totes as soon as possible, but wants to make sure the state delivers on the grant money.