Burlington considers consolidating trash, recycling, compost routes

Updated: Jun. 16, 2021 at 11:52 PM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - The Burlington Department of Public Works is looking into a potential new waste collection system that would consolidate the pickup of trash, recycling and food scraps to the same day.

“Our recommendation, we think, is a good balance between achieving the environmental goals, preserving and actually growing good union jobs in the city, and preserving an opportunity for the private sector in a more organized sector to be collecting waste streams in the city,” said Chapin Spencer, the director of the Burlington Department of Public Works.

After a study by third-party consultants that has spanned two years, DPW is proposing a hybrid consolidated system where the city continues to collect the recycling and then selects private haulers to cover different neighborhoods’ trash, instead of having several different companies covering the same streets in Burlington.

“There’s going to be interest in ensuring a diversity of haulers, doing our best to support local haulers,” Spencer said.

He says other benefits would be reduced costs to residents with efficient collection routes, fewer environmental impacts and less stress on roads. In terms of food scraps, he says those companies could potentially partner with trash haulers.

“It’s not customer-friendly, we should have one day a week where all these waste streams go to the curb and they are picked up seamlessly and that’s what we are aiming to do here,” Spencer said.

The study revealed that 83% of communities in the United States use some sort of consolidated collection. Spencer says having private haulers collecting in specific districts would cut down on the miles traveled, helping the city get closer to its climate goals.

Joseph Fusco, vice president of Casella, the state’s largest waste hauling company, says he’s worried about smaller private haulers dealing with large changes without as many resources as the larger companies. He wants to have more discussions with the city instead of having them step in and take more control of the process.

“I think if we talk about it, if we discuss what public policy goals the city is trying to achieve, I’m pretty confident we can find a solution that works for the city and helps them achieve those goals,” Fusco said.

Spencer says he wants to hear more from citizens and haulers about what they want to see a new system look like.

“Now is the time for us to hear from residents, from haulers, from stakeholders with your thoughts, because the system should be responsive to the interests of the community and we want to hear from you,” he said.

How much could this cost? Spencer says it could be three of these services that Burlington residents are currently paying for the price of two.

The City Council will eventually have to weigh in on the new system. If approved in the coming months, the DPW would still work with the community to outline what the public wants in terms of service and options, a process that could take up to three years.

Those wishing to comment on the proposal can contact the DPW: DPWCommunications@burlingtonvt.gov or call them at 802-863-9094.

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