WINDSOR and WINDHAM counties, Vt. – Springfield announced last week that, starting July 1 its transfer station would require all residents to purchase an annual vehicle sticker for $25 to use the station, due to rising costs to recycle plastics and other materials. In addition, the town will replace the system’s current weight-based fee to dispose garbage with a flat rate per bag.
Springfield’s changes are neither unique in approach nor reason. The other municipal transfer stations Springfield’s waste management district — Weathersfield, Rockingham, Ludlow and Cavendish — all require residents to have a vehicle sticker to access their transfer station and all charge trash disposal by the bag instead of weight.
Each town appears to vary slightly in its approach. Some towns have all taxpayers fund the transfer station’s operation. Others charge for the stickers to shift the funding responsibility onto those who use the station.
Yet Springfield is not alone in feeling the pinch of rising costs of waste management. The plummet in market prices for recyclables has many towns in western Vermont tweaking their pricing systems for fiscal year 2020.
Taxpayer funded versus user funded
As Springfield Selectboard chair Kristi Morse explained at last week’s board meeting, charging residents for a vehicle sticker is not adding a charge. Before this change that charge was in every resident’s taxes.
“This new system is migrating us toward user fees and takes it off the taxpayers’ responsibility,” Morris said.
Rockingham, Cavendish and Weathersfield do not charge residents for a vehicle sticker, or at least not their first one (additional stickers are often $5 in most towns).
Ludlow, like Springfield, charges residents $25 for their annual vehicle sticker, though Ludlow Assistant Town Clerk and Treasurer Pamela Todt said that purchase includes 52 prepaid 33-gallon trash bags. Springfield’s sticker only covers entry to recycle, not fees to dump trash.
“For some residents 52 bags are enough to last them the year,” Todt said.
Only some stations allow non-residents
In Springfield requiring vehicle stickers is partly to stop non-residents from dumping their recycling at the town’s expense, said Springfield Public Works Director Jeffrey Strong on Monday.
Recycling is a heavy expense these days, towns report. According to Charlestown’s Transfer Station Superintendent Keith Weed, the cost that town to recycle plastics jumped in April from $55 per ton to $90 per ton, compared to $53 per ton to dump the plastics into the landfill. Paper, which once generated revenue to recycle, now costs towns, while the revenues once received for cardboard are about half today what they once were.
The recycling industry suffered a massive blow in 2016 when China, who received 7 million tons annually of the world’s plastic waste, announced that it would no longer import other countries’ refuse. Last year China only received 1 percent the amount of plastic it took from other countries in 2016.
In Springfield, only Springfield and Chester residents who pay an annual fee to Springfield for transfer station access may acquire a sticker to Springfield’s station. Cavendish also limits its stickers to Cavendish residents or property owners.
In Weathersfield non-residents may purchase a transfer station sticker for about $60, said Weatherfield’s town clerk. Rockingham also allows non-residents to buy a sticker, according to Assistant Town Clerk Barbara Joy.
Towns reviewing fees and prices
Starting July 1 Rockingham’s sticker price for non-residents will increase from $20 to $35, Joy said today. The Rockingham selectboard set its price changes months ago.
Other town selectboards are about to review their station pricing. Ludlow’s selectboard planned to discuss their transfer station’s prices for 2020 at their meeting last night. That discussion took place too late to be included in this article.
Weathersfield Town Manager Ed Morse said that the Weathersfield selectboard will review prices this month, but that he will recommend keeping prices the same.
“As of right now the transfer station projects to end with a surplus,” Morse said. “I doubt we’ll be setting any price increases.”