It’s been two months now since a new trash and recycling hauler was hired in York, and there are still some growing pains.
Casella/Pine Tree Waste started picking up recycling and trash in York on July 1, replacing 30-year contractor Waste Management. Casella’s bid to provide services came in $1.7 million less than Waste Management over the life of a seven-year contract – or on average about $242,000 a year. That number is based on last year’s trash tonnage, said Public Works Director Dean Lessard, and could fluctuate in any given year depending on the amount of trash collected.
Complaints arose almost immediately after Casella began, and continue to the present day — although at a slower pace than in mid-summer. Both Lessard and Town Manager Steve Burns said the company has been “very responsive” to concerns, and has worked to resolve them.
“They have 7,770 stops in town, and the number of complaints is probably under 100,” said Burns. “You’re going to expect transitional issues. If there were 1,000 complaints, I’d be tearing my hair out. But the order of magnitude seems reasonable.”
Still, a recent thread on the York Community Dialogue Facebook page ran to 90 or more comments, most either questioning or raising issues about Casella’s practices. A key concern centers around pickup of bulky material. Resident Patty Morreale, who started the thread, said, “We were told that nothing would change. What we were not told was the new company does not take items that the old company did.”
Chief among those are metal items. Residents complained of seeing beat up lawn chairs and old grills by the roadside for weeks on end, particularly in the busy summer rental season. Lessard said the ordinance is clear: metal has never been allowed for curbside pickup. All metal items are to go to the recycling center on Witchtrot Road.
Over the years, said Lessard, Waste Management was in the habit of picking up everything, including metals. But the Casella contract clearly spells out that they agree to follow town law, and that’s what they’re doing. “Our orders are pretty specific. Why pay a tipping fee on metal when the town gets money for it?”
Another issue, now largely resolved, dealt with trash pickup on private roads, said Lessard. Cassella based its bid on a Waste Management street list; however, the list was not accurate. Over the years, Waste Management began pickup of trash on some of these private roads; in some instances, workers even picked up at the residence itself. However, these roads were not on the list.
Residents started calling right away after July 1, wondering why the longtime practices were not continuing under the new hauler, said Lessard. He said he and a Casella employee physically drove down each road, and found out “about 90 percent of them, they can service. Cassella is absorbing those costs,” said Lessard. Some roads just aren’t serviceable, he said. Most trucks have to back down the road to get out, and when it’s narrow and branches block the mirrors, they’re driving blind. “If a pet or heaven forbid a child was behind the truck they wouldn’t see it. It’s just not safe.”
The Waste Management practices “were contrary to our ordinance. When we hired a new contractor, it shined a light on things,” he said.
Another concern is about pickup time. Casella has said all trash and recycling has to be curbside by 7 a.m. Unlike Waste Management that had two separate trucks for trash and recycling, Casella has a dual hauler. And they are fast, often completing the entire rounds by 10:30 a.m. “Some people were used to Waste Management coming at 9 in the morning or 2 in the afternoon. When they put their trash out at 2, guess what? It doesn’t get picked up,” said Lessard.
Lessard said he understands people are used to a certain way, but he encouraged them to either read the ordinance or go online to the DPW page on the town website and download the recycling and trash brochure which lays out what will and won’t be picked up.
He’s satisfied with Casella’s performance thus far. “They were faced with some really tough things, and they came at the peak of the season. Was it painful? Yes. But now we’re enforcing rules that were supposed to be enforced. And hopefully, we’ve been able to resolve everything.”