Trash talk: Questions abound at Q & A on contract with Waste Management in N.S.

Public Works Director Raymond Pendergast speaks to a crowd assembled at North Smithfield Middle School. NRI NOW photo by Sandy Hall

NORTH SMITHFIELD – Residents had more than a few questions for public works and waste officials about a new trash collection service coming to town July 1, with a crowd of more than 80 people attending an informal discussion at North Smithfield Middle School Wednesday night.

The forum, organized by Councilor John Beauregard, aimed to provide answers to those concerned about the new automated system that goes into effect next month. With new bins, bi-weekly recycling collection and trash disposal soon to be moved to a single, 64-gallon cart, many questioned if the service will provide enough space to dispose of their household garbage.

Representatives from Waste Management provided clarity on how to handle overflow, and navigated answers on everything from bulky item disposal and trash at multi-family properties, to how the new carts should be placed at the curb.

Households will be issued two carts per unit to be delivered later this month, a 64-gallon trash bin and a 94-gallon recycling bin, with additional recycling carts available at a cost of $45 for a second 64-gallon cart, or $65 for a 96-gallon. For excess trash, special bags will be available for purchase at a cost of 5 for $10 at the town’s Public Works building on Quaker Highway.

Public Works Director Raymond Pendergast explained that in order to keep the town’s trash disposal costs in check, the change was inevitable.

“As a director, I have to look at math. I have to look at tax rates,” Pendergast said.

Pendergast said the new contract will save the town some $800,000, and will help to avoid the inflated tipping fees that take effect if municipal tonnage limits are exceeded at the landfill. He noted that policy already limits residents to two 35-gallon containers of trash, but the town’s current waste contractor has not enforced the rule.

“They have disregarded the policy we’ve had in place for the last ten years,” said Pendergast. “They haven’t been enforcing it.”

The director said his office has received 20 to 30 calls a day since the Town Council approved the recommended change in March. Beauregard, who voted in the minority against the move with Councilor Claire O’Hara, said he set up the forum on Wednesday, June 5 after also receiving many questions from residents, some of which he did not know how to answer.

It was unclear prior to the gathering just how many would attend, and the informal format – with no microphones and those present blurting out questions from various corners of the room – often made it difficult to hear.

“We’re not the first community to automate,” said Pendergast over the bustle, noting that Waste Management provides the same service in neighboring communities including Smithfield and Burrillville.

Many in attendance had questions about where to put the new, large carts, with one noting that his neighbors typically park in the street overnight and could block truck access. Pendergast said that no overnight parking is permitted on North Smithfield roads, and police may have to be notified to correct the problem. Carts, for the most part, should be set out in the same place as usual, and Route Manager Alan Anderson said any problems with pickup by the truck’s automated arms will be addressed after the first few weeks.  

“If it’s an issue, we’ll figure it out,” said Anderson. 

Multifamily properties, including legal in-laws, will be issued extra carts, with the service offered to all homes of up to six families.  Residents will be able to dispose of any old, unwanted trash barrels and recycling bins curbside from July 8 to 19, when Waste Management will pick up and recycle the unneeded containers.

If the new carts are damaged by plows, traffic or other unavoidable hazards, Pendergast said the town will provide replacements.

Bulky items – such as couches, chairs and tables – will be collected on Mondays every other week, and residents will be asked to schedule pick up by calling Recycling Coordinator Vanny Mey at 401 767 2200 ext. 348.

The contract also includes 16 weeks of yard waste pickup, which will be moved to Saturdays. Many asked why the current contractor hasn’t collected yard waste placed curbside over the past several weeks.

“They’re about three weeks behind,” Pendergast said.  

Others asked if the overflow trash bags could be placed in bins to avoid any tampering by animals once the new service begins on Monday, July 1. Anderson said the bags should be left out, and said collectors will get out of the truck to retrieve trash exclusively placed in the purchased bags.  

“It will be more work on our end, but you’re paying for it with the bags,” Anderson said. Of the potential for animal problems he added, “I get your concerns but we do it in other towns. We’re not seeing that problem.”

Residents have already received one mailer with information from Waste Management and more are expected soon, including a calendar detailing bi-weekly recycling collection dates, bulk collection, trash holidays and more; and a list of what can and can not be recycled. 

“They do a great job. We’ve had them in the past,” Pendergast said of the business. “I know change is difficult.”

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  1. Agree DRT, I don’t understand the logic of we need to recycle more as a town but will only do it every other week. I would tend to think weekly recycling overflow will find its way into the regular trash and perhaps could wind up costing the town more money.

  2. It’s about time our town goes to automated trash pick up. Nearly all other communties already are on board with this method which will result in cleaner streets and more efficient service. The pushback on this new contract is embarrassing with residents not even giving it a chance. Like all changes there will be a period of adjustment. Before shooting the whole concept down, why not give it a few weeks before you rush to judgement? Once again, the vocal minority is quick to squash any change to their daily routine.

    • I’m surprised it’s been 10 years; then again I’m not.
      Give it a chance, maybe they can use the savings to pay for a paint job on the DPW bldg. That’s a start and not wait 10 years

    • My only concern is the bi-weekly recycling. I usually have only a bag or two of garbage, but my recycling is always full. Sometimes I have two bins out.

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