Public Comment: Why the Delay Moving Forward with Waste Hauler Reform?


Curbside toters in Berkeley, CA for trash, compost and recycling. Photo: Wikimedia Commons. Public Domain

The following public comment was offered at the meeting of the Town Services and Outreach Committee on March 14, 2024.

My name is Darcy DuMont and I live in District 3. I am speaking on behalf of Zero Waste Amherst. I’m attending today because there was a promise to bring a report on the waste hauler RFIs to this meeting. Those RFIs were received in October and now it has been 5 months. And it has been more than a year and a half that this referral has been in TSO. In the last session, a hauler update was on every agenda. Please add it to each agenda so that we can work toward a recommendation back to the council as soon as possible.

Just a reminder to this committee that the following organizations endorsed the initial hauler proposal to move to a town contracted service that would include a pay as you throw fee structure and universal curbside compost pick up:

Amherst Board of Health (which has urged action three times now)
Amherst Energy and Climate Action Committee
Amherst League of Women Voters
Amherst Common Share Food Coop
Climate Action Now Western MA
Mothers Out Front, Amherst
UMass Student Farming Enterprise
Sunrise Amherst
Hitchcock Center for the Environment
Progressive Coalition of Amherst
Grow Food Amherst
Unitarian Universalist Society of Amherst Green Sanctuary Committee
Zero Waste Central Valley
Amherst Bilingual Studio
Sierra Club, MA Chapter
Community Action Works (Formerly Toxics Action Center) 

Also, Zero Waste Amherst was asked by the town to conduct a survey to ascertain costs which is did in 2023, and reported that the average user of USA Hauling and Recycling currents pays around $550/year and that the difference between small, medium and large carts is $2/month, definitely not enough to incentivize waste reduction.

Zero Waste Amherst also reached out to find volunteers who could help get the word out to educate neighbors about the ins and outs of curbside compost pick up and have so far signed up 80 people who were to start doing outreach last summer (2023), we had hoped.

Waste reduction is of great interest to a very large portion of the town. The residents want to help take responsibility while also reducing their costs. 

On behalf of Zero Waste Amherst, please send this back to the Council with a positive recommendation on behalf of your constituents.

Darcy DuMont is a former town councilor and sponsor of the legislation creating the Amherst Energy and Climate Action Committee. She is a founding member of Zero Waste Amherst, Local Energy Advocates of Western MA, and the Amherst Climate Justice Alliance and a non-voting member of Valley Green Energy Working Group. She can be contacted at

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7 thoughts on “Public Comment: Why the Delay Moving Forward with Waste Hauler Reform?

  1. I’ve read through the proposal but I don’t see anywhere where there’s an option to add additional totes to my account with this. A composting tote does nothing for my family as we’re not in the habit of throwing away food but I do take advantage of USA’s free 2nd recycling tote. Also, In lieu of hiring a dumpster I’ve also gotten a 2nd trash tote for the next few months. Under this proposal, if anything it just incentivizes people to burn trash in their backyards instead of subscribing to a pay as throw system. This also seems to target families, particularly those with young children or larger families, with a system of fines and increased costs just for existing.

    To be frank, I don’t like Amherst’s way of handling trash collection and would much rather prefer it be run similar to the way that most of Eastern MA runs things where there’s a town contract and it’s paid for with taxes, but even under that system people have the option to add totes for additional costs. This proposal just seems punitive in my opinion.

  2. This proposal is simply for a town contracted service. The town would contract with a hauler. Additional totes could be added for additional pay as you throw cost. The curbside compost tote would be included in the overall cost and would divert about 40% of the “trash”. Here is the way Louisville Colorado does it, using Republic Services. Note the cost for extra totes. Also, the compostable materials would include not just food scraps but compostable take out containers, dirty paper, etc and could also include yard debris if the town opted to include that.

  3. Looking at the Colorado example, theTown would not be contracting with a hauler because the Town would not be paying for the service and would in fact be making money through admin. fees.

    If the idea is for the Town to select a hauler to provide services that the Town decides we need and who everyone has to use and pay for (with the Town getting a cut) then that is a tax. The Town’s legal counsel should be consulted about the legality of this proposal.

  4. Of the Western MA communities of Amherst’s size or larger, only Amherst and Northampton are currently “washed hands” with respect to waste reduction. All the others either have a town contract with the hauler or do their waste hauling in house. DEP keeps track of how each community does waste hauling. Our waste could be reduced by at least 40% if we had a contract with a hauler that included meaningful pay as you throw service and compost pick up. We could reduce it even more if we had in house waste and compost pick up. And resident costs would go down, not up.

    Three haulers responded in October to a Request for Information about the proposal though we have yet to hear about those responses.

  5. The Town may require all property owners to use a hauler of the Town’s choosing but that cost would be considered a tax. If t he Town imposes a cost that can’t be avoided that is a tax, courts have ruled. Having property owners pay the hauler directly was a an interest dodge but the courts are pretty good at calling a spade a spade. The approximately 5% payment to the Town by the hauler for for “admin. fees” in the Colorado model proposed makes it clear that this is a tax in my opinion.

    So the proposed Colorado model can be used but it will affect our Proposition 2 1/2 levy limit calculations.

  6. I don’t believe that is correct. Residents would have the choice of using the hauling service or the Transfer Station.

    All the surrounding towns either provide their own hauling services or have a municipal contract with a hauler. There are a variety of ways towns finance this service. Some of the administrative costs added into the contract would be for actual customer services provided by the hauler.

  7. Using the transfer station requires a payment to the Town. Using the hauler selected by the Town at prices the Town has agreed to results in a payment to the Town as I understand it.

    Running this by the Town’s legal counsel sounds like a good idea when the plan is finalized. My free advice might be worth every penny.

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