Letter: Zero Waste Amherst Is Exploring Hauler Reform As A Path Towards a Greener Amherst


Bales of crushed PET bottles at a recycling facility. Photo: wikipedia commons.

by Christina Platt, Chad Fuller, Laura Rojo MacLeod, and Darcy DuMont

The Zero Waste Amherst (ZWA) task teams have been working since January on the main areas of concern for the Town of Amherst: recycling, composting, and plastics. We researched, contacted experts, had meetings online, designed guidelines and educational steps, started a website and a Facebook page  and created brochures as well. We know that many of you share our concern for the ecocide happening on our planet and we need your help! We believe that by acting locally while thinking globally each of us can definitely make a good difference to the community. The time is now. Let’s go green Amherst!

As you probably know, in January, 2019, USA Waste and Recycling bought Duseau Hauling and Amherst Trucking. Over the past two years, rates for waste and recycling services have increased 50% to 100%  and residents are at a disadvantage in doing anything about this. Short of organizing an effective boycott, there are only two options: use USA or the transfer station. The classic oligopoly. As someone pointed out, the pay per bag method is best for the environment, but it’s not realistic to expect everyone needing to dispose of trash and recycling materials to haul their own to the transfer station. But if we promptly start organizing in each neighborhood, we believe it can be done. 

While it may be true that the USA’s “costs for labor, disposal, and insurance” have risen, it’s impossible to determine what the actual figures are. Whenever utilities increase their rates, they’re required to justify that hike to regulators. 
Not so with these private hauling firms! USA doesn’t even post their prices – what other business could get away with that? 

ZWA’s Hauler Reform Committee is currently studying two alternative options: having the Town of Amherst contract directly with haulers or cutting the haulers out entirely and providing waste and recycling services through the DPW. Either of these options will require strong citizen support. And they will take time to implement. In the meantime, anyone interested in reigning in USA is welcome to join our Hauler Reform Committee. Please contact us zwamherst@gmail.com and visit  us on Facebook.

May the New Year find us all together, protecting our commons, with less plastics, more composting, more native trees abd everywhere, bikes…Happy New Year 2021! Ring the bells of hope, health & love for all!  

Christina Platt, Chad Fuller, Laura Rojo MacLeod, and
Darcy DuMont are all members of Zero Waste Amherst

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18 thoughts on “Letter: Zero Waste Amherst Is Exploring Hauler Reform As A Path Towards a Greener Amherst

  1. I think it’s great that the ZWA’s Hauler Reform Committee is looking into alternative haulers for trash & recycling, as well as other options. I was surprised and not happy to learn that USA Waste & Recycling is now the only hauler for regular residential service in Amherst. Also, as with other consolidations and the company providing service no longer being locally owned, I miss the connections, helpfulness, and flexibility of Amherst Trucking. I fondly remember for example a long-time Amherst Trucking worker who would always bring my elderly neighbor’s trash and recycling bins back up her hilly driveway to her home so that my neighbor didn’t have to navigate that herself, as well as the willingness of Amherst Trucking to pick up the occasionally extra trash or recycling left besides the pickup bins because for that week, they didn’t fit in it. With the latter, I’ve seen USA W&R not pickup any items not in the trash or recycling bins.

    The posted letter though, did leave me with some questions though about how much the costs to customers have increased with USA Waste & Recycling. According to the letter, “over the past two years, rates for waste and recycling services have increased 50% to 100%.” That hasn’t been my experience, and I’d be interested in finding our more about whose rates have gone up that much — yikes! — and what the new rates are. I used Amherst Trucking for years for trash and recycling pickup at my home, and then was switched to USA W&R. From 2008 to 2020, I paid $195 every six months for service. With the most recent bill (for January-June 2021), USA Waste & Recycling raised the price to $216 for six months. This is the first increase in over 12 years (which to me seems reasonable), and it’s about 10% more, nowhere near the 50-100% increases mentioned in the letter. Thanks in advance for any clarifications or additional info.

  2. I too have fond memories of Amherst Trucking – knowing, for example, that I could leave some flattened cardboard boxes under my blue box at the curb and everything would be picked up.

    Two people in Nextdoor comments mentioned that their rates had doubled – a 100% increase. My own bill “only” increased 32% last year. ZWA is
    also interested in learning what the new rates are and what the increases have been, but there’s simply no source for that information. At
    usarecycle.com, the only reference to pricing refers to dumpster rentals – and even then USA believes that “our customers want the best value and service based on their individual needs.” Ergo, no posted prices.

    The Hauler Reform Workgroup was actually formed a year ago to tackle the issue of reducing the amount of waste and recycling generated in Amherst. By coincidence, USA now dominates those services and customers have become alarmed by price increases, as well they should be, but our first priority remains waste reduction. For further details, read Darcy DuMont’s upcoming Local and Green column in next week’s Bulletin: Good Riddance to Bad Rubbish. 😉

  3. Rob – Right now, the intrepid Pedal People serve only the Leeds/Florence/Northampton/Easthampton areas, but your point about thinking outside the truck is well taken.

  4. That’s right, Christina, but the point is: consider working with the Pedal People to develop the equivalent service in Amherst – there’s no good reason for Northampton to have a monopoly on good ideas and practices :-)!

  5. I agree with you completely, Rob. But there are only some many hours even in a pandemic day. Someone other than our small band of Zero Wasters would need to work with the Pedal People to expand their service area (hint, hint),

  6. I love the idea of Pedal People extending to the Amherst area. I wonder if they’d be interested in this, or maybe an intrepid entrepreneur on this side of the river would be interested in creating a similar business here.

    As for the current rates being charged for trash and recycling, it’s unfortunate that USA doesn’t publish their rates online. I know that the issues here are bigger than what people are currently pay for curbside service, but that can be important too, especially for customers on fixed incomes. Hopefully, there can be some ways to get this information, either from haulers themselves or perhaps through a community survey. Maybe the two people on Nextdoor who said that their rates had doubled could provide more details. One possibility perhaps: maybe for residential service, some long-term customers (perhaps longer than me — I’ve lived in my current home for 20+ years) were grandfathered in at lower prices and USA W&R has now increased the prices for those customers accordingly.

  7. My bill has increased 65% since USA bought out Duseau- to $153 per quarter. Which is a lot higher than the $216 per six months that someone above is paying. What kind of rate schedule is USA using anyway?

  8. That’s exactly the point, Tom.
    Only USA has any idea what a rate schedule would look like. If one actually exists . . .

  9. Christina, others:
    I reached out to USA W&R after reading this column last week, and recently received a reply, from their Director of Operations, Eric Fredericksen. Below is an excerpt. He did not provide me with a rate schedule, but he did give me other information and explanations.
    The excerpt from his letter: “As far as price adjustments go – we do review our cost structure and effective pricing on an ongoing basis. While disposal costs in the northeast continue to increase significantly year-over-year we’ve always done our best to absorb those costs for as long as possible. This past year was the “perfect storm” when it comes to cost impact. Disposal rates continued to increase as they have and those costs were impacted even more so by volume increases due to homebound employees and families (working from home and sharing more if not all meals at home) – our residential material volumes have increased over 15%. In addition – the strain on recycling markets resulted in a shift from “no charge” for recycling to costs greater than that of trash. Ultimately these factors resulted in the most significant disposal cost increase we have experienced in many years. I can’t speak to the reference regarding 50%-100% increase in rates without having more information. I can assure you that would be very much be an exception but I recommend that any customer with concerns over rates get in contact with our customer service department so we can review on a case-by-case basis.”

  10. Bespoke waste hauling and recycling services! Gotta love their branding efforts,

    Many thanks, Tracy. This is such important feedback. We’re hoping that others will follow your lead and imagine that everyone will receive the same canned response (pun intended).

  11. There’s more than one pun in Christina’s post: the USA W&R practice is “bespoke” indeed, so it would prosaic justice for the competition to be a bicycle-based hauler, in the Pedal People model, with the perfect name: Bespoke Waste Hauling & Recycling Services!

  12. Hi Christina,
    I recently reached out to USA Waste & Recycling again, and this time I actually was sent information on their standard residential rates for Amherst for curbside pickups. Wow. The details are below:

    Standard rates, for trash & recycling, curb site pickup:
    96 gallon barrels: $42/month
    68 gallon barrels: $40/month
    45 gallon barrels: $38/month
    The email also mentioned that former Amherst Trucking customers are grandfathered in at a reduced rate ($36/month).
    I wish that USA W&R’s pricing did more to encourage less trash. Sigh.

    The email I received also mentioned the composting curbside pickups for $15/month for every other week service. Customers are provided a 68 gallon cart for composting, and either use the cart as is or provide their own biodegradable bags for the cart. That seems like a pretty good deal.

  13. This is terrific information! We’re about to engage the company in a discussion of rates, services, schedules, education and, especially, incentives for waste reduction. We’re aiming for common ground. Your success gives us hope.

  14. Another wrinkle in USA Waste’s operations is that they have two levels of service- curbside and driveway pickups. If you were a former Duseau customer, you had driveway pickup- their crew would come up your driveway to get your trash and recycling bins. That option now costs, according to USA Waste, $60/month. I was told by them, when they took over Duseau, to keep doing as I was doing. I was not told there was the other option of wheeling my barrels down to the curb- for a lower rate. It was only today, when I called to ask why I was paying more than the rates shown in T Zafian’s comments that I was informed of the curbside option. The Town needs to require written service offerings and rate schedules in their contracts with vendors.

  15. I’m less concerned abt price & more abt what they do w/it once they get ahold. Some continue to truck (long distance truck engine pollution) to land fills (horrible use of recyclables) near the Finger Lakes’n Ohio. Others to burn it (again, I object). Single stream that is not separated into recycling lots, etc, etc.

    Finally, this all speaks to only a small fraction of Amherst. 50% of our neighborhoods are 50% absentee landlord private home conversion student rentals. We also have a Large Percent of restaurants (business w/a 50% organic load on waste) and multi-family apartment complexes/multi-family dwellings. A near 1/4 plastic and near 1/4 organic content for all residential waste. Lots of good info on the article’s cited sites 8^ )



    There IS room for hope. Follow up with what science (CET of Florence’s consult) has done for UMass – million dollar savings thru zero waste approach~
    Lets ask together for solutions (current technology) that work to turn around this (literal) mess – planetary destruction!

    Chad Fuller

  16. As you might know, Tom, trash collection and recycling operations are governed by the Amherst Board of Health. Although they require haulers to have information available on their prices – either by weight or volume – and schedules, they are not mandated to make this information public.
    We’re working to change that and will keep you posted. >< Christina

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