Residents raise a stink over new trash bins

By Chris Maza

LONGMEADOW – Longmeadow rolled out its new trash receptacles townwide and not everyone is pleased about it.

Curbside solid waste pickup with new town-issued wheeled 35-gallon carts began this week after the town completed the delivery of the new bins on Nov. 2. Under the new program, residents’ garbage will continue to be removed at no extra cost as long as it fits in the cart with the lid closed and is under 40 pounds. Any excess trash must be placed in town-approved bags, which are available for purchase at the Department of Public Works, as well as retailers such as Big Y, Rocky’s Ace Hardware and Carr Hardware.

The barrels were purchased in partnership with East Longmeadow, primarily funded through a grant from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection. The grant covered 75 percent of the purchase price of the barrel, according to Department of Public Works Director Mario Mazza.

With the advent of the program came a wave of criticism – primarily complaints regarding the size of the barrels.

“These new trash cans are insanely small. I will be able to put one bag and a diaper bag in there if I’m lucky. I have a wife, a child, dog, and hope to have another child sometime in the future,” Resident Tyler Saremi told the Longmeadow News. “I like to keep my curb neat and close the lid to my trash can and not have bags sitting next to my trash can so things are tidy. As it is my trash can is perfect. I feel this is ridiculous that we are forced to downgrade our trash can size. This seems like another way the town is trying to collect more money from homeowners. I am somewhat insulted by this behavior of the town. I feel this was a waste of grant money. With the highest taxes in the state we should be treating our residents better.”

Resident Patricia Munson concurred, stating, “I like the idea for each home to have its own identifiable trash can. No problem with that. The really big problem is the size. The can is simply too small. Our family is only two adults. We are very diligent about recycling and are considering composting. Larger families, even us depending on certain events, will definitely have a big problem with such a tiny trash can. Sure, we can buy the blue trash bags, $8.75 for five bags. Is this plastic bag recyclable? Not sure.”

Michael Sokol echoed, “The new trash cans are small and do not meet our needs.  Our taxes are high enough. We should not have to purchase the extra blue bags.”

That criticism is ill-warranted, however, Mazza said, as the size of the container is compliant with current town regulations.

“Thirteen years ago, the town passed a restriction of 35 gallons per household,” he said. “We didn’t change that restriction at all. The issue is a large portion of residents had larger than approved barrels.”

Some residents also took issue with the quality of the barrels, stating their lids were warped and did not close.

“The new bins are OK, but my main concern is that raccoons will be foraging all the blue bags for goodies and we’ll have trash flying all over the place,” resident Ruth Moxom said.

Other residents said they were concerned their trash would not be collected because the lid would not close through no fault of their own.

Mazza said he also took note of that problem.

“I noticed it too, that certain lids were not closing, and it was a fair amount of them,” he said. “I brought it to the attention of the manufacturer who said over time they should close normally after spending time in the sun.”

As part of the initiation of the program, Mazza added drivers have been instructed to take note of the condition of the lids and if a bin is not closed due to a defect, the trash should be collected as normal. He reiterated that trash would not be collected only if it is obvious that the cover is open due to excess refuse.

Some residents defended the program, noting the existing regulations and noting the need to increase townwide recycling efforts.

“Anyone surprised that the receptacles are ‘too small’ was not in compliance with established town rules about weekly trash disposal. Anyone who has been in compliance could not possibly be surprised by these receptacles,” said resident Wayne Barr. “We always have some extra blue bags around for those weeks when we need them – because that’s how the program was designed to work. For what it’s worth, I’d rather see a story about civically responsible residents who wonder how we can recycle more effectively. Can Longmeadow take the lead with, say, some kind of composting program?”

Resident Marcie Jorgenson said of her new barrel, “Works for us. We are a family of four and the new can is about the size of what we’ve been using for over 20 years. We use a 13-gallon tall kitchen bag and it’s not entirely full in a week’s time. Not quite sure how people build up a 35 gallon trash can in just a weeks time, that equals more than three times what we dispose of. Glad to see the town trying to reduce and I hope other towns follow their example. Time to get serious about our planet.”

The 35-gallon trash container is not exclusive to Longmeadow. East Longmeadow also recently distributed their town-issued trash carts purchased with the grant. Unlike Longmeadow, however, East Longmeadow’s weight limitation is 50 pounds per household. Excess trash bags are available in that community for $1.75 per 33-gallon bag.

Chicopee also utilizes 35-gallon carts with overflow bags available for purchase in two sizes – 15-gallon for $1.20 each and 33-gallon for $2 each.

Some residents called for larger receptacles like those found in Springfield. Unlike Longmeadow, East Longmeadow and Chicopee, Springfield residents pay a $90 annual trash fee that comes with a 90-gallon barrel and weekly solid waste pickup and bi-weekly recycling pickup. Discounted $40 trash fees are available for elderly and blind residents, disabled veterans and households that fall below federal poverty guidelines.

Agawam’s curbside trash removal program utilizes 65-gallon barrels, which the town claims can hold four to six kitchen garbage bags, and a 95-gallon recycling can. Trash is collected weekly while recyclables are recycled biweekly. Trash overflow bags for that community cost $15 for five. Agawam also sells compost bins for residential properties for $25.

Wilbraham does not offer a municipal curbside trash collection service. Residents pay $2.50 per bag to be disposed at its Disposal and Recycling Center on Boston Road as well as an annual sticker for access, which costs $100 for residents and $85 for seniors. Homeowners can also hire private trash removal services.