PORTSMOUTH — Residents will have only a few days to purchase the new orange pay-as-you-throw (PAYT) bags before the new program goes into effect at the transfer station Feb. 1.
During an informational PAYT workshop at Town Hall Wednesday night, Ray Antanya, the town’s recycling coordinator, said the bags won’t be available for sale in local stores until Jan. 28 or Jan. 29 — about 10 days later than the town had initially anticipated.
1“It’s going to be a small window,” said Mr. Antaya. “We’re going to have three or four days.”
Mr. Antaya said he provided WasteZero, the company that manufactures the bags, a total of 17 potential retailers. “I can’t guarantee they will carry them,” he said.
The following local retail stores have confirmed they will be selling the bags: Clements’ Marketplace, both Rite Aids, both Cumberland Farms, Domina's Agway and the Green Grocer, although the last store may have the bags a little later than the others, he said.
For the convenience of Prudence Island residents, both Marcy’s at Homestead Dock on the island and Seabra’s in Bristol will also be carrying the bags, he said. The town is still waiting to hear back from a few other retailers who may be selling the bags.
Residents will be able to buy packages of different-sized bags costing $10 each: five 33-gallon bags, eight 15-gallons bags or 10 eight-gallon bags.
Reasons for PAYT
Mr. Antaya spent much of the 40-minute meeting talking about the benefits of PAYT, which is a funding mechanism for the town’s enterprise fund that pays for the transfer station operation. The cost of operating the station has increased dramatically, he said, as have tipping fees charged by the Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation (RIRRC).
PAYT is the best response to those rising costs, he said. “It makes economic sense for the town to support the enterprise fund,” Mr. Antaya said. “We get $1.67 on a $2 bag. All the money that’s generated goes into our enterprise fund.”
The rest will come from the sale of new vehicle stickers — $140 for the first household vehicle, $10 for an additional one — that are now on sale at the tax collector’s office at Town Hall during regular business hours. The office will also be open for sticker sales from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 3.
The less non-recyclable trash a household generates, the more money it will save on orange bags, he said. “The more you recycle, the more you save. Take the recyclables out of these bags,” he said.
The average household will probably use one 33-gallon, $2 bag per week, which means an additional $100 per year on top of the sticker fee, he said. However, if you’re single or have a household that produces less trash, one eight-gallon bag at $1 each may suffice for the week, he said.
Mr. Antaya said he’s received an estimate that the bags will generate close to $400,000 in revenue, based on the assumption that 3,500 households will buy stickers. The town expects to lose some people to private curbside pickup, he acknowledged.
“Right now, it looks like we’ve lost 300 households,” he said.
Besides making economic sense, PAYT is also environmentally viable, he said. By increasing its recycling rates, the town will not only save on tipping fees but help extend the life of the Johnston landfill, which is expected to be full by 2033. According to estimates Mr. Antaya said he’s received, PAYT should result in a 44-percent reduction in the amount of Portsmouth’s trash that goes to the landfill.
“Economically it makes sense, environmentally it makes sense, and it’s an equitable solution,” he said.
He urged everyone participating in PAYT to follow the new rules to make the transition a smooth one for everyone involved.
The town’s new contract with J.R. Vinagro Corp. provides for an extra employee at the transfer station to prevent any abuse. As for anyone who breaks the rules by dumping “black bags down the hole,” Mr. Antaya said a warning will be issued the first time, but workers will keep an eye on those offenders.
“We’ll know who you are,” he said.
Mr. Antaya added that he expected there will be a “learning curve” for everyone involved.
“We just hope that moving forward, people have some patience,” he said.