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Neighbors Building Brookline Warrant Review Meeting

Last night, as a newly elected Town Meeting Member from precinct 12, I attend the Neighbors Building Brookline Warrant Review Meeting. Although I've been a Town Meeting Member from precinct 9 since 2001, I’ve never participated in an advance discussion other than by email or phone. I found this gathering of my new precinct delegation most useful, as it gave me a chance to hear different perspectives on the issues in a more intimate setting.

I've written up a report on the discussion at the Neighbors Building Brookline website. The report can be found at this link: Warrant Review Meeting Report. I considered reposting the report here, but decided that if anyone's interested, you can just click through from my blog to the report. Feel free to comment here, though.


I have some input on the pay-as-you-throw system. We've had it in Austin for about five years, and it works pretty well. They also have bulk trash pick up two times a year, where they pick up sofas, refrigerators, tires and such.

Then this year they added single-stream recycling with giant blue garbage cans and it's wonderful (see http://www.ci.austin.tx.us/sws/singlestream.htm).

PAYT with single-stream recycling is vastly better than PAYT alone.

Just my 2 cents worth.
There seem to be two main issues standing in the way of adopting PAYT.

First of all, much of north Brookline does have an illegal dumping problem; the TAB article reports on some of those issues. Quite a few residents are understandably concerned that under PAYT, they might find themselves paying extra to remove someone else's trash that was not their responsibility in the first place.

The second issue is that some PAYT supporters were a bit dismissive about those residents' concerns. Rather than coming up with a suggested fix, or saying that PAYT wouldn't be instituted without making sure of a fix beforehand, they basically dismissed the concerns by saying that other communities where PAYT is instituted don't have an illegal dumping problem. The people opposing PAYT aren't against it in principle, but many of them felt like their voices were not being heard.
People do put trash in other people's cans. My neighbors did that to me. But the cans are big, so generally it's not a problem (they were putting big cardboard boxes in my can because they were too lazy to crush them fro recycling. I started throwing the boxes back over the privacy fence and they stopped doing it.

What I see is most people keep the can inside their privacy fence. I don't, and I get a bit of other people's stuff, but not much. It helps that the cans are huge, big enough to hold two weeks worth of most people's garbage. You can request a smaller or larger can, but most people stay with the middle size.

Most illegal dumping here is contractor waste: tires, brush or construction debris. That won't be affected either way by PAYT. I would be surprised if it's different in Brookline.

I'm not arguing with you, I'm just giving my observations as a person who's been living with PAYT for about ten years.

Oh, I didn't think you were arguing. One of the things I'm trying to do is find out how communities managed to deal with the issue of illegal dumping when adopting PAYT.

Do you get charged for other people's trash that ends up in your can? That's the key question. Or are these cans just the ones for recycling? My understanding is that people aren't going to be charged extra for the recycling that gets picked up, just for the trash.
You get charged a set monthly price for the can regardless of how much is in it. But if it's overflowing you get charged more.

If you have more than can fit in the can, you can bag it and put a sticker you buy at the store on it. I think the stickers are two bucks and one sticker pays for a big black garbage bag.

If my neighbors put garbage in my can and this results in my can being overfull I will be charged. But they don't generally put it in on trash day, so it's easy to catch them at it like I caught mine. Since the can is so big, it usually doesn't matter if someone puts a bag or two in my can. But they were putting in big empty boxes. And the boxes could have been recycled for free if they would just have broken them down. If they ever put trash in, it wasn't enough that I noticed.

The single stream recycling cans are even bigger, but they get picked up every two weeks. I have yet to see one overfull. The single stream recycling is "free" like the garbage is "free." I assume the cost of both is covered by the money I pay to the Solid Waste Department every month. The recycling is supposed to pay for itself, but I don't know if it is.

Here's a photo of the recycling can with my kid in it for scale:

In the photo above, the gray can by the privacy fence is my garbage can. It's volume is a bit more than half of the recycling can's volume.
I really liked that photo!

We don't have a privacy fence, but our trash generally stays in the building until trash day. What we have noticed is that other people have dumped their trash or recycling into our blue bins after we've put out the bins. Short of us standing there all night to guard the bins, I'm not sure how we can put a stop to it.
I'm glad you like the picture.

I think the reason there's not a lot of illegal dumping in personal cans here is that we have city trash collection and everyone who has electricity and is not in an apartment gets both a trash and a recycling can. Apartment complexes have dumpsters. Most of the illegal dumping goes into dumpsters.

"Short of us standing there all night to guard the bins, I'm not sure how we can put a stop to it." -- If you and your neighbors do it right, you'll only have to stand guard a few nights. After that people will choose some other neighborhood to go and dump in.

But really I think what cuts back on illegal residential dumping here is that everyone has their own huge trash can and even bigger recycling can so there's no reason to dump in someone else's.

December 2016

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