HAVERHILL — Almost a year since its debut, the city's new trash program is producing savings for taxpayers.
So said Public Works Director Michael Stankovich, who explained the program, which replaced the city's old trash system with new barrels last April, will save the city between $450,000 and $500,000 by the spring.
He said the savings comes in the form of $240,000 in the reduction of trash that is disposed of and $220,000 from switching to barrels that can be picked up by mechanical arms on trucks.
Stankovich said use of the 64-gallon wheeled trash containers, often referred to as "toters,'' has led to a 20 percent increase in recycling in the city, one of the program's goals when it was approved last year. The containers force residents to put out less trash than in the past, which means people recycle more, city officials said.
"Year to date, we've seen a 17 percent reduction in trash around the community," Stankovich said, adding the city pays the Covanta Energy company $56 for every ton of trash dumped at the company's Ward Hill facility. "We expected between a 10 to 20 percent decrease. By the end of the fiscal year, I think it'll be closer to 20 percent."
Since the city delivered 21,000 wheeled trash containers to homes across Haverhill last year, neighborhoods have been cleaner because the containers' secure lids prevent trash from being blown away by wind — a common problem with the city's old trash barrels, Stankovich said.
Because of this, the Public Works Department has seen fewer problems with rodents than in past years, he said.
Because of concerns that elderly residents would struggle with the new barrels, Stankovich said city reached out to 1,500 senior citizens to address that issue, he said.
"We offered them smaller, 32-gallon containers," he said, adding that 188 residents have signed up to rent additional barrels and 192 have switched to 32-gallon containers. "They're very small numbers and they match communities like Lawrence and Dracut."
In a departure from Haverhill's trash program of the past, Stankovich said the city was also able to save money by recycling more than 2,000 Christmas trees last year instead of sending them to the Covanta trash facility. In the spring, Stankovich said the city will offer residents two dates for curbside pickup of leaves and grass — April 15 and June 10.
Another concern of residents when the new trash program was announced was the ability to get rid of bulk items such as furniture, Stankovich said. The city has disposed of more than 30 tons of bulk items, which has saved Haverhill an additional $13,500, he said.
When asked by City Councilor Melinda Barrett about whether illegal dumping has increased in areas such as Peabody Street near her home in Bradford, Stankovich said there has been no increase in dumping of items like television sets and refrigerators.
Barrett and Councilor Joseph Bevilacqua called for the city to have a "bulk item day'' similar to what the city did with Christmas trees, and Bevilacqua added he wants to see an expansion of the city's recycling program.
"There is a cost-savings to the city and it helps the environment,'' Bevilacqua said.
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