Residents could incur rising recycling costs

WESTFIELD- The Board of Health Jan. 8 addressed the rise in recycling costs expected to hit the city July 1.

The increase of single stream recycling costs is expected to go from $0 to $150 a ton in Westfield, costing the city at least $500,000 a year, without factoring in the cost of trash removal. 

The Health Department, which is responsible for the Twiss Street Transfer Station, may have to  make policy changes surrounding the station as a result of the increased costs. 

“We may have to change pricing. We may have policy changes that include not taking a lot of the stuff that we used to take if it is going to cost that much to get rid of it,” said Public Health Director Joseph Rouse, “There is zero option of putting it in the trash. It’s a banned material.”

The increase in recycling costs is dependent on whether the city chooses to sign a three-year contract with the Massachusetts Recycling Facility in Springfield. Cheaper options are being pursued, including a facility in Wilbraham which would likely cost $90 a ton for recycling, which is still considered expensive. 

Rouse brought up the idea of incinerators to dispose of some trash and recycling materials.

“There are countries in this world that get rid of their trash exclusively with incinerators that are cleaner than anything,” said Rouse. 

Board of Health member Margaret Doody expressed interest in the city purchasing an incinerator. 

Rouse said that they may choose not to accept certain recyclable materials at the transfer station if it begins to cost too much.

“It’s a hard decision to make, what do you do?,” said Rouse, “I mean, now the only real incentive to recycle when we get to this sort of pricing is because it is the right thing to do.”

He then complained that the increased cost is coming with little time to prepare, saying that there is not enough time to find a good alternative. He lamented that the solution may be for the residents to incur the cost of the price increases.

“Maybe the residents need to incur the cost, and maybe that is what will get them to affect change somehow,” said Rouse. “When you realize your solid waste management bill is now going to have to go up $30 a year to cover that $500,000, it may get you to say ‘why?’.”

Doody noted that many people do not recycle correctly anyway. Rouse responded by saying that there are too many different materials that look the same for people to keep track of when they recycle. 

“The packaging has surpassed what we are able to handle  to recycle,” said Rouse. 

He added that companies should start coming up with more consistent packaging that can be recycled. In a lot of cases now, Rouse said, the cost of using brand new material is cheaper than to use recycled material.

Early last week, local leaders gathered in city hall to address their concerns about the impending costs.


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