WESTFORD — Waste Management will soon replace ACME Waste Systems for Westford’s solid waste collection, with a new contract set to take effect next year.
ACME Waste Systems, which has provided solid waste collection for Westford since 1989, did not submit a proposal to renew its contract beyond June 30, 2024.
The Select Board voted unanimously to authorize the Town Manager to sign the contract for solid waste and recycling collection during an Aug. 15 meeting.
Solid waste changes
The current contract with ACME Waste Systems, set to expire on June 30, 2024, includes weekly collection of solid waste of up to three carts per resident, $5 bulk item stickers and $30 “White Goods” stickers.
The new contract with Waste Management totals $9,454,909, which includes continued weekly collection, however, households would be limited to one bin as opposed to three bins under the current contract.
The town will have the choice between a 32-gallon or 64-gallon bin. Bins would be distributed per household and tracked with RFID tags. A decision on bin size was not made at the time of reporting.
A decision has not been made on whether residents will be charged for their new bins.
Bulk item stickers would now cost $20 per item, increasing $2 per year and topping out at $28 per item in 2029. White Goods would start at $35 per item, and increase by $5 per yet, topping out at $55 per item by 2029.
Additionally, the town has the option to allow for pay-as-you-throw, where additional trash bags outside of the bins could be disposed of for an additional fee. A decision on allowing pay-as-you-throw has not been made at the time of reporting.
Waste Management has also modified its recycling contract, which was originally signed with the town in 2019, to prohibit non-standardized containers.
Under the new contract, residents would continue to see biweekly recycling collection. However, the company is proposing a standardized 96-gallon cart for all recycling, with no overflow options for residents.
“Aesthetically, it’s going to look a lot nicer. But it’s a lot different than what we’ve had in the past,” Assistant Town Manager Eric Heideman told the Select Board.
Financials of the new contract
The new contract contains multiple year-over-year cost increases over the course of the proposed contract.
“We knew with ACME not bidding we were going to have a sizable increase with this [FY25] budget,” Finance Director Dan O’Donnell said.
Officials note that this contract is the “low bidder,” compared to another bid received from Republic Services.
“We have to collect trash in town, I think we have had an unusually good deal with ACME for a long time and now we’re facing the reality of what the market is,” said Select Board Chair Tom Clay.
Under the contract, the town can expect an increase to its recycling costs as well.
Concerns, ideas from residents
Residents, like Chris Kuntz, are concerned with the accessibility of use of the proposed bins.
“Very often our weekly garbage is a bag,” she said. “We don’t often use a barrel at all, we take our plastic bag to the bottom of our driveway.”
She added, “I live on a hill and I cannot manipulate one of those carts. I don’t know if there are options for elderly people, handicapped people, or people like me who may have smaller amounts of garbage, but a big cart that you have to use is very unwieldy.”
Some suggest limiting the size of the bins to reduce overall solid waste disposal in town.
“If you decide to limit people to 32 gallons, what tends to happen in other communities is they figure out how to compost or how to reduce what they’re putting out there and then we save on the tipping fees,” resident Kristina Greene said.
Greene suggested the town purchase two 32-gallon bins per household to give the town flexibility to reduce per-household solid waste disposal in the future.
Board members were reluctant to support the idea, noting that purchasing additional bins would incur additional collection costs for the town, as well as further reduce how much waste a household could dispose of.
“We’re asking people to go from allowing three bins [and] take them all [the way] down to 32, that’s a shock,” Select Board Vice Chair Scott Hazelton said.
Select Board member John Cunningham added, “I think we’re going to get to the composting stuff eventually. 32-gallons is not very big.”