Selectmen scrap automated collection plan

BEACON FALLS — The town is sticking with manual trash collection for the foreseeable future.

The Board of Selectmen on Monday decided not to move forward with a plan to switch to automated trash and recycling collection due to the cost.

The board began discussing last May the possibility of partnering with Ansonia to bring automated pickup to the two towns. Both towns contract with the Danbury-based Winters Brothers Waste Systems for their trash and recycling collections.

Currently, trash is collected with a truck that has a driver and operator. The operator needs to dump the trash into the truck by hand. With automated collection, a mechanical arm on the truck lifts a trash barrel and dumps the contents into the truck. This only requires the driver.

First Selectman Christopher Bielik said the shared cost between Ansonia and Beacon Falls would be approximately $1 million, which would include the purchase of a new truck and larger bins.

“The bottom line is our share of the cost of capitalizing this new program with Winter Brothers and Ansonia would be essentially $46,000 a year for five years,” Bielik said.

This cost would come on top of the approximately $192,000 that the town is already paying Winter Brothers for trash and recycling collection, Bielik said.

Bielik said the automated system does have an economic benefit since the town receives some money for every ton of recycling disposed. The larger the bins that are available, the more residents are likely to recycle, he said.

“Seymour went to this system about a year or two ago and they saw a 40 percent increase in their recyclables being picked up,” Bielik said. “The potential existed, in theory, for the upgrade to pay for itself.”

However, the numbers didn’t work out in the town’s favor.

According to information supplied to the board from Materials Innovation and Recycling Authority (MIRA), a quasi-public agency that provides single-stream recycling and trash disposal for Connecticut cities and towns, Beacon Falls generates between 325 and 375 tons of recycle material per year.

MIRA used to give municipalities $10 per ton for recyclable material, which meant Beacon Falls was receiving approximately $3,300 a year, Bielik said. Last year, the price was cut to $5 a ton due to the drop in price of recyclable materials, he said.

At the current rebate of $5 a ton, Bielik said even if the town saw a large increase in the amount of recyclable material, it would still have to cover a large portion of the cost to make the change in the municipal budget.

“The economics of it are really self-evident. It really just doesn’t work for us,” Bielik said. “For us to do this we would have to think this was worthwhile enough to basically being taking 95 percent of the cost of this out of hide from our own budget. I don’t think that’s an argument that’s worth making to the Board of Finance.”

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