TOWNSEND -- A few weeks into Townsend's new limit on the amount of trash that can be thrown away, residents are adjusting to the concept of limiting their trash and turning toward recycling.
Under the new regulations, which went into effect on July 1, households can put out 99 gallons worth of trash each week. This is most often done in the form of three 33-gallon bags or barrels. There are no limits on how much can be put out for recycling.
Board of Health administrator Carla Walter said the reduction is part of an ongoing program to gradually reduce Townsend's waste over several years. The limit used to be six bags, and has decreased by one bag each year.
Despite this, Walter said, the tonnage has not decreased significantly over the last few years, a fact the town is trying hard to change.
"We've always been trying to decrease it. The tonnage is horrendous, it should be half of what it is right now," she said.
Walter said she has no explanation for why the tonnage has not decreased significantly.
According to Walter, the tonnage of trash is comparable to that of Fitchburg, a city with more than four times the population of Townsend. Both towns collect 2,001 to 2,250 tons of trash per year, she said.
Eventually, Walter said, the town hopes to move to a tote system, where each household would receive one 64-gallon tote for all its weekly trash. She said this system would help to eliminate confusion about how much trash people can put out.
However, the cost of the totes would be high -- about $170,000 for the town.
Walter said that although there were many complaints from the community prior to the restrictions, people are starting to get used to the new limit.
"The problem is confusion and understanding. We're trying to educate people," she said.
Although recycling has been mandatory in Townsend for years, many people don't recycle, Walter said. To enforce the trash limit and encourage recycling, a recycling enforcement coordinator, paid for by a grant from the state Department of Environmental Protection, will travel the routes and present warnings to residents who are not complying with the limits. Eventually, those people could be fined.
Irene Congdon, chairman of the Townsend Recycling Committee and Central Mass regional recycling coordinator, said that Townsend's three-bag limit is still higher than many other communities.
"Most people can live within one bag of trash. We have six people in our family, including one baby in diapers and a dog, and we have two kitchen bags a week, which fits into one 33-gallon black bag," Congdon said.
She said each household is producing on average more than a ton of trash each year.
Jeff Dominick, a former Board of Health employee at the Recycling Center and Townsend resident, said the limits are appropriate.
"I think they're a starting point in getting people to think differently about what they throw away. People understand better when there's a cost to their actions, so yes, I think a fine is appropriate for going over the limit.
"In my view," he said, "this new measure is the only practical step the town can take with the limited resources and funds available," Dominick said.
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