Despite bag shortage, SMART system makes smooth debut at dump

“Got a green sticker? Green bags?” Pat Pesa of the Department of Public Works greeted each early arrival at the Transfer Station with those queries as the gate opened at 7:30 Wednesday morning.

Wednesday, July 3, was the first day at the Transfer Station for both the new yearly stickers and the new requirement that people use specially purchased green bags for their nonrecyclable trash. A half-dozen cars were already waiting at the gate as opening time rolled around.

Earliest of the early birds was John Costello of Still River Depot Road. He confirmed he had a supply of the new green bags for the SMART (Save Money and Reduce Trash) program. He’d chosen the smaller size, which he said would be fine for his needs. And, like many people later in the day, Costello said he’d heard the bags were in short supply, with several stores having run out of them.

Inside the station near the recycling bins, Jane Biering of Littleton County Road was ready to help people with information on what was recyclable and what was not. Biering said she’d attended a meeting of the Transfer Station Committee and volunteered to help during the July transition to the new system. The committee expects recycling to increase as it has in other towns that adopted the pay-per-throw system of purchased trash bags. Biering said the best source of recycling information she has found is the Recyclopedia feature on the website www.mass.gov/info-details/how-where-to-recycle.

At the trash compactors up the hill, a formidable enforcement team was on duty—Town Administrator Tim Bragan and DPW Director Tim Kilhart, both wearing safety vests as they stood among the cars to make sure everyone was using the official trash bags. “We’re here to answer questions,” Kilhart said, “and to thank people for complying with the system.”

A few vehicles were turned away at the gate for lack of an up-to-date sticker. But, because it was a weekday, some drivers went straight to Town Hall to acquire one. Pesa, still tending the gate, said it had been harder last year, when the first new-sticker day fell on a Saturday and people had no choice but to take their trash home.

As the 11:30 a.m. closing time drew near and the day grew hotter, Kilhart was still monitoring traffic at the compactor. “It’s been very successful,” he said. “Most people heeded the letter we sent out and got their bags and stickers in plenty of time.”

Kilhart said only six or seven people had been turned away for not having the official bags. He warned that any illegal dumping around town would be reported to the police.

The biggest problem of the day seemed to be that no one was sure whether any of the six places where people could buy the official trash bags still had them in stock. The General Store had run out, having sold eight cases of the bags. Other area suppliers are Harvard Outdoor Power Equipment, Westward Orchards, Moore’s Lumber (Ayer), Shop ’n Save (Ayer), and Bolton Orchards. All six outlets should have a new supply of the Town of Harvard SMART Trash Bags from WasteZero by the end of the week, according to Kilhart.

As the last cars moved through the gate, Pesa said he thought people would get used to the new system, and some might even find that it cost them less over the course of a year than the old one. “But you don’t do it to save money,” he said. “You do it to save the environment.”

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