Limited Trash Options Prompts Increased Costs for Harwich

HARWICH – Cost increases are coming for the town of Harwich for its disposal of trash.

New Bedford Waste Services recently informed the town that it will be exercising an “Uncontrollable Circumstances” clause in the current contract to increase the price for solid waste removal from $62 to $75 per ton.

The current contract with the town runs through the end of December.

New Bedford Waste Services President Michael Camara presented a grim outlook for municipal solid waste disposal last week to selectmen.

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.

“Their goal was to create more recycling,” Camara said. “They put waste bans in place and we all started recycling.”

The Department of Environmental Protection’s solid waste master plan in 2000 included a goal of recycling 46 percent of solid waste, but Camara said the current rate is around 23 percent.

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

“They haven’t reached any of their goals,” Camara said. “They put these goals out but it never really happens.”

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.

“They are at 25 year lows,” Camara said.

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.

“Because of China coming out of the marketplace, it has also made it more difficult to move commodities around the country,” he said.

Harwich DPW Director Lincoln Hooper has reached out to Covanta to discuss a possible new contract with its SEMASS waste-to-energy facility.

Covanta presented a proposed three year agreement that would charge $90 per solid waste ton in the first year. The cost would then increase to $94.50 in year two and $99.25 in year three.

“Transfer stations are not end disposal,” Camara said. “[We run several transfer stations] and once the building is full it’s full. If you have nowhere to go – that’s it.”

Camara said his company has been in contact with companies in other states for end disposal services.

“We can’t rely on it being in state,” he said. “Unless the DEP decides to lift the moratorium on waste-to-energy or look at other alternatives which we could explore.”

Camara said ABC is working hard to make sure it can commit to its customers and find solutions.

Selectmen requested a one-week extension to weigh options, which was granted by Camara. The board will also send a letter to Governor Charlie Baker and the Legislature to express its concerns over municipal solid waste issues in the state.

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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