Contractor Seeks Price Increase of Waste Disposal in Mashpee

MASHPEE – The Town of Mashpee will soon be paying more for the removal of its solid waste.

Selectmen recently agreed to a renegotiate with contractor New Bedford Waste Services after the company’s president, Michael Camara, delivered a grim outlook for municipal solid waste disposal on November 4.

The presentation followed a letter sent to the town in August, which indicated the company was exercising an “Uncontrollable Circumstances” clause in the current contract to increase the price for solid waste removal to $75 per ton.

Mashpee is in the fifth year of a 20 year contact with NBWS and is paying $66 per ton this year.

Camara said the price increase is due to diminishing capacity for disposal within the state and a reduction of overseas recycling markets.

He said the issues are occurring due to a policy adopted by the state about two decades ago that banned the expansion of waste-to-energy facilities. The state’s goal was to increase recycling.

The Department of Environmental Protection’s solid waste master plan in 2000 included a goal of recycling 46 percent of solid waste. The current rate, according to NBWS is around 23 percent.

There was also a goal to reduce solid waste by 90 percent through recycling by 2050.

ABC Disposal Services Inc., which is the parent company of New Bedford Waste Services, planned to handle recycling and municipal solid waste at a Zero Waste Facility it constructed in Rochester.

The process would have included creating fuel briquettes with materials that could not be recycled.

Those briquettes would have been sold to biomass plants in New Hampshire, but the state discontinued issuing renewable energy credits causing the plants to shut down.

China also decided a few years ago that it no longer wanted to import recycled materials and are at 25-year lows.

Camara said the value of recycled materials has drastically decreased over the past few decades. The price of cardboard at one point was up to over $300 per ton about 15 years ago, according to Camara, and is now down to about $30 per ton.

Town Manager Rodney Collins will re-evaluate and renegotiate terms of the contract over the next few weeks with NBWS officials.

The town’s rate will remain the same for the remainder of the year, but Camara said an increase upwards of 20 percent is needed for the company to continue to operate.

Selectmen chair Andrew Gottlieb said it does not make sense for the town to continue the same disposal practices if the cost is just going to increase.

“Everything you tell us is that our municipal solid waste and our disposal practices don’t work anymore in the world we live in,” Gottlieb said.

“To me it is insane for us to continue to just pay more to do the same thing in a more constrained environment that doesn’t allow us to get rid of the same waste.”

He said to continue the current disposal practices the town would need to raise sticker fees or increase the contribution from the general fund.

“We need to have a real serious conversation about what we are doing with trash and stop having trash be the sacred cow that we can’t touch and not price according to what it costs to get rid of this stuff,” Gottlieb said.

Selectman Thomas O’Hara agreed and said the town needs to have a conversation about waste disposal.

Selectmen were also not happy with how NBWS went about presenting the price increase with the letter sent in August.

“I don’t think anybody wants to see Mr. Camara and this business go out of business,” O’Hara said. “But you need to come back with a better proposal than this and the demand letter. That’s not the way this works. We didn’t do anything wrong.”

O’Hara said the current system for waste disposal doesn’t work.

Gottlieb said communities that have Pay As You Throw pricing have recycling rates that meet or exceed state goals.

“Towns like ours where it is just do what you want and there is no pricing signal, our recycling rate is pretty much what the state average is, which is well below the goal,” Gottlieb said.

“It’s not rocket science. If you incentivize people to dispose of less waste, they will dispose of less waste.”

About Brian Merchant

Brian Merchant grew up in Central Massachusetts and now lives in South Dennis on the Cape. He has been part of the news team in the NewsCenter since the spring of 2014. He studied radio broadcasting at the University of Tennessee.
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