North County towns sign new recycling contract

  • The Bernardston Selectboard signed a new recycling contract during its meeting on Jan. 14. Staff Photo/ZACK DeLUCA

  • The Bernardston Selectboard signed a new recycling contract during its meeting on Jan. 14. Staff Photo/ZACK DeLUCA

Staff Writer
Published: 1/24/2020 5:15:26 PM

Now that the Warwick, Northfield and Bernardston Selectboards have each signed a new recycling contract, the towns will begin paying to have recyclable materials removed from their transfer stations starting in July.

The proposed changes to the contract with the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection and the operator, Waste Management Recycle America, will charge transfer stations $93.50 per ton of recyclables that are sorted using dual-stream methods (which involves separating paper products from bottles and cans), plus hauling costs. The cost is subject to increases every year for the five-year contract.

“A lot of us are in sticker shock,” Northfield Town Administrator Andrea Llamas said.

“We’ve never had to pay before,” noted Bernardston Selectboard Chair Robert Raymond.

The Northfield Selectboard signed the new contract in its Jan. 13 meeting, with the Bernardston Selectboard following suit on Jan. 14 and the Warwick Selectboard doing the same on Wednesday. While towns needed to sign the new contract by the end of January, the changes won’t take effect until the current contracts expire on June 30.

According to Franklin County Solid Waste Management District Executive Director Jan Ameen, the change is due in part to the depressed worldwide market for recycled materials. While it is possible a domestic market could rise from the change, it would take years for it to get established, Llamas said.

Despite the change, Llamas said she does not think Northfield would be able to find a better arraignment.

“The money is what really horrifies people,” she said, “but there’s nothing we can do about that because it’s the nature of the change in the market.”

Based on last year’s recycling figures, Llamas estimates Northfield will pay about $19,000 to dispose of recyclables in the coming year.

According to Northfield Board of Health Chair Bob MacEwen, Northfield used to receive $40 to $50 per ton of recyclable waste. This was reduced to around $8 per ton because of market changes in recent years.

While Raymond said Bernardston never made a profit from its recyclables, he and fellow Selectboard members expressed concern with the significant change, which is expected to cost Bernardston an estimated $15,000 . In accordance with state law, recycling is required and recyclable items must remain separated from regular trash.

“I’m not happy, but I don’t see where we have much of a choice,” said Selectboard member Brian Keir.

“We’re stuck between a rock and a hard place,” Raymond said.

Bernardston Town Coordinator Louis Bordeaux said residents must use town trash bags as part of a “pay-as-you-throw” system at the transfer station. The trash bags have cost $2 each for at least 12 years, but with the increase in recycling fees, a possible bag price increase or a fee for a transfer station permit — which is currently free — has been discussed. As of Wednesday, Bordeaux said the Selectboard had not decided on any changes.

During the Bernardston Selectboard’s Jan. 14 meeting, Raymond said Ameen had assured them she had done all she could to explore other options for reduced pricing.

“My job is to help towns find ways to save money and help minimize hauling costs,” Ameen said last month.

According to Ameen, the changes apply to 19 towns in the district — Bernardston, Buckland, Charlemont, Colrain, Conway, Deerfield, Erving, Gill, Heath, Leverett, Montague, New Salem, Northfield, Orange, Rowe, Shelburne, Warwick, Wendell and Whately. Non-district towns of Greenfield, Shutesbury and Ashfield will also need to sign a contract.

Zack DeLuca can be reached at or 413-772-0261, ext. 264.

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