The Swap Shop is staying. Now will it expand?

Southborough’s beloved Swap Shop is off the chopping block, at least for now. In the face of strong public opposition, DPW Superintendent Karen Galligan said last night she has backed off a plan to close the Swap Shop. Instead, she proposed making it even bigger.

At last night’s Board of Selectmen meeting Galligan said the main problem with the Swap Shop is its location and size.

“We’ve basically outgrown it,” Galligan said of the 20 by 12 foot garage bay. She said its location at the front of the recycling lane causes traffic flow problems, particularly on busy days like Saturdays.

To alleviate the space and traffic issues, Galligan proposed moving the Swap Shop to an unused parcel of town-owned land just behind the current recycling area. Access would be via a new driveway at the far end of the recycling lane. Galligan said the space would be large enough to accommodate multiple sheds dedicated to swapping.

Galligan said after the meeting she estimates the new swap area could be set up for about $32K. Assabet has expressed interested in having their students build the structures at no cost except materials.

Many of the several dozen residents who turned out to hear the discussion last night commended Galligan for coming up with the alternative, but not all were convinced it would solve the problem.

The new swap area would be behind the recycling facility in an area off by itself. Galligan said it would not be manned by a DPW employee, so it would need to be self-policing. Some residents questioned whether that model would encourage the same bad behavior that exists today.

“It sounds like an out-of-control free-for-all,” one Southville Road resident said. “I don’t know if we can afford to make the problem bigger.”

Selectman John Rooney agreed saying a larger, unmanned area would exacerbate the problem. Rooney said instead, the town should look to cut its solid waste disposal costs by enacting a pay-as-you-throw program, and then using the savings to pay an employee to manage the Swap Shop.

“This is a Band-Aid approach to a problem that is hemorrhaging…You’re not going to save any money, you’re going to end up spending more money,” Rooney said of the plan. “Am I in favor of closing the Swap Shop? No, but something has to be done.”

What do you think? Is building a new, bigger Swap Shop the answer? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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SB Resident
12 years ago

The biggest problem is that we all see different problems and aren’t discussing the problem we are trying to solve with particular solutions. I commend Ms. Galligan and Mr. Rooney for each coming up with a solutions to the problems that they each see, but we need to spell out the problems that NEED to be solved because I think Mr Rooney is trying to solve problems that very few of us seem to think exist. Although I can’t be sure because it can be hard to understand what he is really trying to say. What problem is “hemorrhaging” and how will this plan will cost more? Maybe I needed to be there?

My opinion is that the swap shop is a form of recycling, its not really a swap shop. I can put something there (that I think could be used by someone else) instead of in the hopper. This saves the town money. To me that is the end of it. If a warm and fuzzy feeling about who is getting your goods is required for you to ‘swap’ it then IMO our swap shop is not the place for you because such a swap shop *IS* costly, and I don’t think the town residents would want to pay for that, particularly with Mr. Rooney’s solution of pay as you throw.

Considering the relatively low cost and that traffic can occasionally be a problem (the only problem I see), the proposed solution by Ms. Galligan seems reasonable. Personally, I don’t really see that we’ve outgrown the current shed, just the driveway, so an even cheaper solution would be to make the new driveway and put the shed we have back there. Also instead, I would prefer changing the hours of the transfer station to more convenient times, to attempt to alleviate Saturday traffic. I would trade weds and thurs for an extended hours monday.

12 years ago
Reply to  SB Resident

I have to agree. What’s wrong with moving the existing shed back further? Why in the world would we want to spend several thousand dollars on multiple sheds?

12 years ago

“…the town should look to cut its solid waste disposal costs by enacting a pay-as-you-throw program, and then using the savings to pay an employee to manage the Swap Shop.”
– OK but I thought the point was more that the DPW didn’t want the swap shop not that it needed to be funded.
– So how about detailing the changes and show exactly where pay as your throw will save money and still keep it as simple?
– And if it does save money then how about using that savings to make up the cost difference of operating the dump instead of spending it to do a job that is ALREADY BEING DONE! Can anyone in this economy say they don’t like a part of their job and are not going to do it anymore? Who could get away with that attitude in the real world?

As for the larger resident run swap shop – what research has been done to support this? Anyone even Google some options?
This sounds more like a “you want it then you can choke on it” solution fueled with more spite than reason.

As for changes that make sense? There are clearly at least two distinct types of users – Residential and Commercial. Why aren’t there two different stickers? Charge 5X for commercial vehicles and you don’t need added staff or paperwork, or pay as you throw trash bags.
Better yet how about stopping all commercial vehicles unloading their construction debris? Anyone do the math on how many tons of sheet rock, asphalt roofing, and concrete bits we could avoid paying to incinerate?

Bob Michalik
12 years ago
Reply to  Matthew


For almost all of your points, I think you are ‘spot on’. Basically what I am hearing from you and other commenters is that while the Swap Shop imbroglio arose more or less as a nuisance matter, it now has evolved into a more complex intertwined set of issues to resolve. Well I would suggest that the legions of concerned and creative citizens who value the swap shop and congenial relations within our fair community once again put our heads together to come up with a set of viable options that address the myriad issues that are now evident (first unruly behavior to the public and staff (though I’ve never witness such incivility), then fiscal budgetary constraints, site location and design, primary and secondary purposes for the newly proposed facility, recycling opportunities and benefits that serve SB and well as the greater Metrowest community of towns (donations to less affluent towns, etc). Let’s keep turning the issues over and refining the ideas until a feasible plan (with contingencies for operational problems) is clearly defined. I do look forward to both reading others’ comments and contributing a few gems to the plan myself.

Now as for your last point – residential vs. commerical usage of the transfer station. BRAVO. I wholeheartedly support such a two-tiered system whereby high volume dumpers pay an equitable and proportionate share to discard their ‘business’ waste. Just seems fair to me. Anybody else have a good idea to kick around?

democracy in action!

Steve Phillips
12 years ago

Congratulations to the board and DPW Superintendent for a well-thought-out plan which will address the long-term issues with the swap shop. We should also work to develop a voluntary code of conduct for the swap shop and the transfer station in general, since courtesy and neatness, for example, are difficult issues to fix with a ticket and are better to handle through peer influence. Sometimes a smile or a frown can solve problems which a ticket can’t fix. In combination with a small set of enforceable rules to discourage habitual “camping” (including a daily time limit in addition to the current 15-minute rule), this would go a long way towards resolving the current issues.

We all know what we want our swap shop to be: a friendly, social area where townspeople (and their children) can leave worthwhile items they don’t need, for the shared benefit of other residents. Thanks to everyone who is working to make this happen.

John Rooney
12 years ago

SB Resident, The importance of the swap shop to the community is clear, and the town should make the effort to ensure its continued viability. The problem I see relates to the overall operation of the transfer station. Let me expain.

The town needs to act with fiscal responsibility when making decisions with regard to the transfer station. I am not in favor of any proposal that calls for an additional expenditure of our limited resources for the operation of our transfer station. I believe it is time for elected leaders to lead and offer suggestions on ways to reduce the burden on tax payers.

As a community we can reduce the costs of operating the transfer station by connecting our trash disposal habits directly to our wallets. I would suggest that the more each household throws away, the more it has to pay. A household that throws away one non recyclable disposal trash bag each week should not have to pay the same as the household that throws away 6 non recyclable disposal trash bags each week. Everyone already pays for electricity, gas, home heating oil, and water based on actual consumption. Why do we treat trash differently and feel the need to provide it to everyone on a flat-fee-per-household basis? Though politically unpopular, in times such as these where the recession and budgetary deficits make competition for municipal funding challenging, we need to examine the way in which the town does business. Popularity is not leadership.

It is not fair to claim you are fiscally responsible if you raise your hand and vote yes to spending after spending, or vote no to cuts after proposed cuts.

Look at what surrounding towns are doing to deal with their “trash problem.” The MWDN recently ran a front page Sunday article that did a comparative analysis of this very issue. I recently talked to some residents from the Town of Needham. They have a transfer station similar to ours. They reduced their solid waste trash disposal by 50% in the first year of going to a pay-as-you-throw system. It has since remained at 40% less than pre pay-as-you-throw levels. In the first year their recylcing increased by 11%, and has now leveled off to an increase of 30%.

We pay over $74 per ton for solid waste sent to Wheelabrator. We annually send approximately 3,200 tons of solid waste to Wheelabrator. Reducing our solid waste by 50% would allow us to substantially reduce our annual transfer station sticker fee, and would allow the town to operate the swap shop at no added burden on the residents.

Moving the swap shop, expanding the roadways, buidling additional buildings, etc., though very popular and quite attractive, costs money. The solution I am suggesting is a solution which allows the town to operate the swap shop at no additional expense to residents and may ultimately result in the realization of a savings. But it is change, and I understand the barriers that suggested change can bring.

One concern I have heard voiced is that a pay-as-you-throw system leads to illegal dumping. That is a legitimate concern but one that is not often encoutered. “Concerns about illegal dumping seem more fear than reality. Problems arise in fewer than 1 in 5 communities and usually last less than 3 months.” U.S. EPA Office of Solid Waste. “We have some beautiful fields and forests in Concord that would be places for illegal dumping. But we see absolutely no illegal dumping in our fields.” Ann Dorfman, Recycling Coordinator, Town of Concord, Massachusetts. “Illegal dumping? We just haven’t seen it. We’ve had only two instances – in commercial dumpsters in the downtown area.” Kristine Carbonneau, Program Manager, Dedham, Massachusetts. “The vast majority of illegal dumping usually involves non-residential sources and is not in response to PAYT programs.” Lisa Skumatz, Ph.D., economist and EPA researcher.

If the temperature of town meeting is to increase spending to accomodate operation of the swap shop, then once again I will be silenced in my effort to slow spending. I think it continues to be important, however, to propose alternatives during these economic times.

AD Miller
12 years ago
Reply to  John Rooney

Southborough is the first place that I have lived that does NOT have a pay-as-you-throw system. When I lived in NY you either had to buy a town-specific trash bag (for a nominal fee of $3) or buy a town-specific tag that you affixed to the bag to allow for pick-up (which is a system that I don’t think we should go towards as the town is not equipped to have their own trash pick up). As a family, my wife, daughter, and I produce less than 1 trash container of trash per week (less than would fit in the typical large garbage bag that would be standard in a pay-as-you-throw system). Assuming that we bring trash to the transfer center 1x per week that is $156 (slightly cheaper than the current sticker rate).

I think that the pay-as-you-throw system has many advantages. Firstly, it prevents the dumping of large amounts of material into the hopper (i.e. construction debris). If ti doesn’t fit into the bag, then it can’t be dumped. Secondly, I personally believe that it encourages recycling. We make a point of producing as little waste as possible in our household. Everyone on this board has been to the dump and seen people heave perfectly acceptable recyclables into the hopper and maybe by having a bag system it would curb this ever so slightly. I think that this is a system that the town should strongly think about adopting. Just because it has never been done that way doesn’t mean we shouldn’t consider it. Sell the bags at the DPW and several convenience stores in town and charge a nominal fee.

Certainly there is the risk of illegal dumping if a system like this is implemented. However, illegal dumping already occurs in our town (take a drive down Parmenter where you can currently find a wicker settee and a TV in the woods by the side of the road). As a whole, however, I think that the risk of dumping is low.

Personally I think that the swap shop is an excellent feature of the town and can stay where it is. If it is better outfitted with some shelves and a little more order it should be sufficient.

Matthew Brownell
12 years ago
Reply to  John Rooney

Please.. . . and I do mean PLEASE . . . do not continue promoting the idea of “Pay-As-You-Throw” within Southborough.

PAYT has been out as a potential recycling solution for 30 years or more . . and there are very pointed realities and drawbacks to this process . . . which is why fewer than 20% of communities within the Commonwealth (and around the nation) use it.

First – there is the consummate pain-in-*ss of having to find and buy the PAYT bags – which are usually sold at a local supermarket, and are often out-of-stock. More often than not, residents of PAYT communities are burning up precious gas and time trying to find the damn bags.

Second – Show me the imbecile and disingenuous lapdog who claims that PAYT doesn’t increase illegal dumping . . . and I’ll show you a person who has never picked-up roadside litter in their community. Due to high waste disposal costs – (which are made imminently more direct and painful to the end-user under PAYT), it’s simply easier for your average hillbilly to use their open car window as a no-cost, trash-jettison portal. This is **FACT**, and that was certainly my experience when my previous place of residence in Chatham, NJ went to PAYT over 2 decades ago.

Third, let’s understand that the PAYT bags have have a maximum size of about 38 gallons. . . . which is another reason why construction debris, old tires, mattresses, rolls of carpeting, electronic gear, coaxial cable, and asphalt roofing ends up festooning our roadsides. It’s just dumb, really.

Fourth – believe me, the Southborough DPW doesn’t need any extra help in creating processes that add to roadside litter and illegal dumping.

Fifth – talk to residents of communities who have PAYT. The vast majority HATE it.

Bob Michalik
12 years ago
Reply to  John Rooney

Dear Mr. Rooney,

I applaud your proposal to consider ‘pay as you throw’ trash financial approach. Mind you, I am not yet a strong proponent of this option, but am damn glad that you (among others) are putting out thoughtful and detailed proposals for citizens to give careful consideration. I often say that “I’d rather light a candle than curse the darkness” and in this instance your detailed approach offers illumination to this complex (albeit mundane) problem of ours. Let’s all follow Mr. Rooney’s lead and bring more light and less heat to this matter. I am pretty certain that with scores of smart folks in this town we can rally around an approach that meets most of everybody’s needs.

I’m ready to help out….. now if I can only figure out how to avoid the nuisance of buying PAYT bags while also retaining the basic equitable design of the PAYT system, I will let y’all know.

12 years ago
Reply to  Bob Michalik

We can avoid the nuisance of PAYT if more people recycle! What will it take to get more people to toss recyclables into the appropriate bins instead of the hopper?

12 years ago
Reply to  Bob Michalik

I live in Northborough, formerly from Southborough. We have PAYT. I miss the transfer station! That being said, I have to admit that I have definitely decreased the amount of trash that I pack away every other week and I believe that it costs much less than the purchase of a Transfer Station Sticker. With PAYT, it is such a hassle and expense to get rid of large bulky items, they remain in my house. We have no “swap shop” where we can leave useful items for others to use. I recently bought a trash compactor so that I would be able to get more trash into the small trash bags that I push out to the curb every other week. One trash compactor load hardly fits into a small bag and the bags ALWAYS rip. I’ve never had any problems finding the bags and have not wasted gas looking for them. A package of small bags costs $15 and I believe that there are 10 small bags in a package. I use approximately two bags every other week, sometimes only one. I would gladly pay a higher fee for trash removal to have the ability to remove some the larger items without the hassle or to use a “swap shop”. Do the people of Southborough a favor and avoid PAYT, it is no fun.

John Boiardi
12 years ago
Reply to  John Rooney

Mr Roony,

If you want to reduce transfer station costs eliminate commercial, business dumping. Let the businesses use Harvey or any other commercial trash disposal facility. Talk to anyone who uses the transfer station and they can relate stories of business pickup trucks filling up the disposal machine. If a Southborough business performs a job in Hopkinton and then dumps his trash at our transfer station we are de facto susidiziIng Hopkinton.
Regarding pay as you go. It provides a false economy. The savings to the town merely transfers the cost to the homeowner. The shortfall in costs of the transfer staion and dump sticker receipts is no different than any other town budget shortfall.

The price of bags creep up. Why not look at the towns that have trash pick-up such as Framingham. The cost of trash pickup is reflected in the tax rate. Trash removal, snow removal, plowing, road repair etc. are all town services and are functions of tax payer funded services. For every proponent of pay as you throw you can find those that oppose it. My experience is anecdotal but those I know that have it hate it.

Matthew Brownell
12 years ago
Reply to  John Boiardi

Mr. Boiardi –

Excellent points . . all of them.

Am I correct in understanding that a commercial/business vehicle pays the same Southborough transfer sticker cost as a Southborough homeowner?

If so, I entirely agree . . commercial vehicles , including commercial vehicles carrying the trash from multiple residents, should be using a facility like Harvey in Westborough.

12 years ago

It is amazing to me that the commercial vehicle apsect of all of this is completely avoided every time it is brought up. Why are they dumping in the hopper. I recently saw somebody from town there with a fence company truck dumping into the hopper. Where did that material come from and if it wasn’t Southborough, why are we paying for it? Commercial vehicles have to be putting way more than any resident vehicle and yet we pay the same. It makes no sense to me at all! If you have a commercial license plate, you pay more. I would have said 3x more but the 5x is probably more realistic with what they throw.

The other point that was brought up is that this “new and improved” swap shop that Galligan wants will cost us $32K. Where is that coming from? We keep talking about cutting this and cutting that but hey, we have $32K for a new unattended swap shop which is supposedly bigger and better. Does she have free reign on that much money that we are ok with her spending that? It would be great if the Assabet kids come in and do that but isn’t there a better project for them AND a better way for us?

The unattended issue is another big stumbling block. I am no expert but I haven’t seen anyone at the transfer station booth in almost a month. Now I know timing is everything but where is the employee(s)? Not at the swap shop. I do know there are other duties than the booth, but I haven’t seen anyone in the whole area at all. I certainly can’t come at bathroom break time every time. I find it odd.

Lastly, it would be nice if Rooney could stick to the subject. I think pay as you throw has been talked about and talked about and was even on the survey and nobody (or very few) seems to want to go that route. This is about the swap shop not about how we are going to dispose of everything else. Sort of related but not really. What goes in the hopper is what would be PAYT.

12 years ago

Mr. Rooney, Can you explain exactly how a pay-as-you-throw program would work? And could you address the commercial vehicle issue? Why aren’t commercial vehicles being charged more for the transfer sticker? Thanks.

carrie alpert
12 years ago
Reply to  Kevin

i think you would need to define commercial vehicles. we have 2 adults in our household and 2 vehicles with transfer stickers and one is a truck with commercial plates. We do not haul our companies debris to our Town’s Transfer Station. If we are going to be charged more for a transfer sticker because we have commercial plates then those who do not recycle should be charged for not recycling.

John Rooney
12 years ago

Kevin, I have gained most of my knowledge on PAYT programs from the EPA. Check out The site provides you with numerous links on research, regulations, articles, etc. Note, however, that the EPA is an advocate for PAYT programs, and most of the information is presented with that slant.

I will need to get back to you on the question of commercial disposal. It is a very good question and one I will get answered.

John Boiardi
12 years ago
Reply to  John Rooney


Your website states “households pay a variable rate (PAYT) depending on the amount of service they use”. Would that also apply to seniors who have no one in the school system but have paid the taxes that built the schools?

12 years ago

First, my problem with Swap Shop charges/fees: I won’t pay to donate items. I am happy to give things to Southborough residents who may be able to use them rather than my throwing them away. But I wouldn’t donate if I had to pay for the donation?!

Possible solutions to the stated Swap Shop problems:
1. Ask devotees to sign up for a day of monitoring. They would be responsible for turning away unworthy items, keeping traffic moving and then cleaning out the “trash items at the end of the day”. They would only work on pre-set days when a Town employee is present in the area, and that Town Employee would certify that they had done the above job and provide a signed and dated receipt. That receipt would give this volunteer/monitor the first entry into next week’s Saturday process, a first look at incoming material for a given time, maybe one hour. (Basically making the profiteer/Ebay users work for their rewards.)
I think this gives the volunteer a sense of the difficult job of the current employees, gives the employees deserved respect, gives the volunteer a reward for the monitoring and clean up. All free.
2. Limit the hours of the swap shop entry. Only drop off of material by donors for the first half of Saturday or whatever day, and only removal of items during the second half. OR something along those lines.. If people really want to do both, they will make two trips.
3. Move the Shop to the end of the recycle area where the toxic shed and bottle cages are now. Reverse the order. Place parking spaces for those who wish to linger, in the area behind. Perhaps the drive lanes need to borrow space from the metals area to allow the traffic to pass. Anyone who continues to “park” in the existing recycle spaces for more than 10 minutes is subject to a parking ticket. (only occasional monitoring would be needed as a deterrent. Or a camera could be borrowed to track and ticket. No one need know when the camera is actually in use. Deterrent.)
4. Another alternative, use the same process for non-profit groups as the bottles and cans. Donations to a shop are screened by the members of the non-profit for a week or two and then a Saturday Sale Day will allow entry for a small fee. The non-profit gets the entry fees. If we feel that worthy residents who need the items cannot pay the fee, other arrangements can be made. (Encourage this instead of car washes.)
5. Another alternative, close the Shop, but allow tables at the Heritage Day Fair. Basically, set up a Town Tag Sale section at the Fair. Proceeds from the sale could go to Town organizations like Recreation or Seniors, especially if their volunteers help to man the tables. Cost would be the truck to remove unwanted items to the hopper. As a donor, I would feel better knowing that my donation is at least going to a worthy organization in Town.

12 years ago
Reply to  m

Last night the topic of volunteers was briefly discussed and basically the take-away I got was that there is town liability involved with volunteers. I don’t quite know why, but that seemed to be the reason volunteers are not feasible. If I misunderstood something please correct me. I am concerned about expanding the Swap Shop due to cost. I don’t know why the town wants to take on another project. I am also wondering if this isn’t a back door way to get another worker hired. Once the money has been invested into building the 4 sheds and putting in the required road and parking, what will be the solution when this “fix” is deemed out of control? Possibly, we will be told we need a worker to monitor it. I am having a hard time getting a handle on the issues at the Swap Shop. It seems very fuzzy with vague references to many things and I am not sure all of the problems are going to go away if the Swap Shop isn’t there. The ‘spitting incident’ happened more than a year ago and did not involve the Swap Shop. There are traffic and congestion problems on Saturday but is that the fault of the Swap Shop? How will traffic improve if everyone is rushing to recycle to lessen the cost of a pay as you go system? Please don’t misunderstand I am all about recycling. I don’t understand why more people don’t. As was expressed by a resident last night, I, too, had no idea there were problems with the Swap Shop. It all seems to run quite well, and I didn’t recognize the place depicted by the newspaper accounts. I still and trying to get to the crux of the issue with it, and it seems to keep coming back to traffic issues. There is too little parking and everyone must exit through the recycling roadway. When it is busy, jams are inevitable because there is no option but a one lane road with pedestrians and cars backing out. It seems to me if we could fix this issue and encourage recycling compliance, the town could cut costs. Of the roughly $500,000 the town spends for tipping fees, does anyone know if this only includes the trash from sticker holders? I am hearing about contractors. I am confused. My understanding is as a resident I a tied to 2 ’32’ gallon barrels of construction waste. Do we allow contractors to dump more? Are they really paying the same sticker fee? Shouldn’t their load fees be tied to weight?

carrie alpert
12 years ago
Reply to  Laura

I really agree with all of your points Laura~
Not sure what is with the big dreams of expansion and renovations when the basic issue has to do with communication and figuring out what it is we as a town need from and want the swap shop to be. Maybe there could be a very small shoe section for those who are in need, actual need of items for their kids. Things can and should change with the times/economy.
I agree with the person who commented that if you want the feeling that your goods are doing “good” then gather them up and call a shelter or get in touch with Big Brother or BIg Sister etc. As I am told by my husband there are a group of people who trawl the swap shop all day long on Saturday picking through it all and then sell the goods.
I also think that the swap shop is used as a dumping ground: people don’t want to throw stuff away so they think “just bring it to the swap shop” lots of times games and other items can be up cycled in other ways. #justsayin

12 years ago

1st i drive a company owned mini van with commercial plates. i throw very little trash in the hopper. it happens to be much more convenient put my trash in my dumpster daily.not allcommercial plate owners dump building debris ! 2nd if one of the big problems with the swap shop is people dumping un wanted junk there how will charging by the bag for pay as you throw help this . it wont it will just give more incentive to put unwanted junk there. it seems much easier to modifie the swap shop we have now with better shelves.i would be surprised if we couldnt create a litte more parking on other side of shed if needed.also if it is difficult to clean shed saturday afternoon just close the door and do when its slower wensday when you reopen.

John Rooney
12 years ago

Mr. Brownell,

According to the MA DEP, as of July 2011, 38.7% of the state’s cities and towns have PAYT programs, not less than 20%. If that information is incorrect, can you direct me to your research?

The “imbecile lapdogs” that researched the issue of illegal diversion hail from Duke University and the EPA. You can see a summary at

Matthew Brownell
12 years ago
Reply to  John Rooney

Why, yes – John. I am looking at the study.

The very same study and webpage you refer us to states that 19% of of the communities that implemented PAYT reported an INCREASE in illegal dumping . . . and that is completely unacceptable, given that our own DPW is doing a less-than-mediocre job of keeping Southborough’s roadsides clean.

Of course, I welcome your company on the next Southborough “Earth Day”, where you can join me in picking up discarded toilets, toaster ovens, basketball backboards, car tires, boom boxes, bath vanity cabinets, to name a few of the gifts left for us by lazy slobs.

John, this is not my first rodeo with “Pay-As-You-Throw”. My experience is grounded in the reality of having previously lived in communities with PAYT, rather than the the “studies” of the EPA . . which, more often than not, are shell opinion papers slanted to promote their own agenda of centralized control and profit from the “green” industry.

Steve Phillips
12 years ago

In response to “m,” I don’t believe that anyone is proposing fees for swap shop items. Although Mr. Rooney raised the subject of a pay-per-throw trash disposal fee at the selectmen’s meeting, pay-per-throw was not on the agenda, and Chairman Boland did not allow any further discussion of this issue, which is completely separate from the swap shop.

I support the swap shop, and I also believe that pay-per-throw is a terrible idea. I think Mr. Brownell’s comment is right on the mark — people who live in towns with Pay-per-throw HATE it. It may reduce tonnage, but it does so by making everyone work a lot harder to throw their trash away. Now you can’t tie up your half-filled bag even if it stinks to high heaven — you have to wait until it’s stuffed to the brim. You have to break all of your trash down into little pieces that will fit into the bag you bought without poking holes in it. You can only buy bags in the sizes the town sells, not the size that fits your wastebasket, and only at a small number of locations. If your bag gets a hole in it, you’re out 3 or 4 bucks. You can’t fill up a trash barrel any more. And you drive around town, steaming as you see piles of illegally discarded trash by the roadside, while you are being penalized for disposing of your trash responsibly. You don’t have to take my word for it — ask someone you know who lives in a pay-per-throw town.

There is also a more pernicious problem which shows up a few years into a pay-per-throw system. Many of the transfer station’s operating costs are independent of the tonnage of trash we discard. Who pays for the fixed costs of running the transfer station? If you build these fixed costs into each bag, your cost per bag increases as fewer bags are thrown away. As residents flee to private haulers or find other ways to dispose of their trash, the price of bags skyrockets as these fixed costs are distributed across a smaller group of residents. In the end, only the suckers are left, paying exorbitant prices to subsidize the fixed operating costs of the transfer station.

Although I sympathize with residents who dispose of less trash, I happily pay taxes for many town services which I don’t personally benefit from, but which benefit our community as a whole — for example, our school system. Should we allow our seniors and residents without children to avoid paying taxes for schools? I don’t understand why the transfer station should be any different. The fixed operating costs of the transfer station should be paid through property taxes so that a small number of residents don’t end up subsidizing everyone else in town.

If we really want to cut our tipping costs, we should improve our monitoring of the compactor area. In addition to the problems with construction waste, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen people who should know better dumping full loads of cardboard into the compactor. Even selectman Rooney, for all of his professed concerns about fiscal responsibility, admitted at this meeting that he routinely throws his recycling items into the compactor because he “doesn’t have time” to recycle. Our recycling effort needs to start with keeping these kinds of items out of the compactor.

12 years ago
Reply to  Steve Phillips

Mr. Phillips, your fourth paragraph is spot on. I share your opinion, and it is a sentiment rarely seen on this blog.

12 years ago
Reply to  Steve Phillips

This is the best post I have seen on this subject and I agree with all of your points. For an example of a “PAYT hater” see the Northboro post #11 above. I recycle like crazy – not only because it is the right thing to do but also hoping to avoid “PAYT”. Again, if you enforce the sticker rules and keep recyclables and construction debris out of the hopper, we shouldn’t need it.

12 years ago

Hats off to all the discussions and ideas.

What about parking the John Deere kart down in the DPW building at night and opening up the other side of the swap shop building. The workers can take there breaks or warm up by driving the John Deere kart to the hopper building or the DPW building. No money spent.

Parking can easily be added by removing some of the grassy area by the light bulb shed and adding some pavement. The cost would be minimum.

The expansion idea is also great. The recycling area is congested as well as inside the swap shop at times. Having Assibet work the project as well as choosing some less expensive materials can both keep cost down. The current swap shop is made out of rough cut pine lumber which is about half the cost of regular lumber. Going from a 240 square foot swap shop to four buildings for a total of 1280 square feet might be a little over kill.

I have to caution about the Pay-as-you-throw idea as well. It encourages creative ideas on disposing of thrash to avoid buying the bags, causing more littering in town. I’m reminded of my Grandparents filling the fireplace with trash and burning it every week, or the old bottle / can dumps you can still find in town. Both of which are now illegal. Let’s not create reasons not to bring trash to the dump.

People who don’t like to recycle still won’t. I have to keep reminding myself that the next generation of people gets the reward when I recycle and it’s the law. Shy of washing the last of the peanut butter out of the jar, most of it is easy. I put my recycling tube right next to my trash barrel and then it’s even easier, you just pick what barrel to put the item in.

As for commercial vehicles, they never used to be allowed in the transfer station period, when or who decided they could dump there is still a mystery to me.

Jessica Rosenthal
12 years ago

In Mr. Rooney’s first comment, he stated that, and I quote,

“As a community we can reduce the costs of operating the transfer station by connecting our trash disposal habits directly to our wallets. I would suggest that the more each household throws away, the more it has to pay… I recently talked to some residents from the Town of Needham. They have a transfer station similar to ours. They reduced their solid waste trash disposal by 50% in the first year of going to a pay-as-you-throw system. It has since remained at 40% less than pre pay-as-you-throw levels. In the first year their recylcing increased by 11%, and has now leveled off to an increase of 30%.”

What Mr. Rooney has failed to mention in his comments thus far is that he admitted at the meeting last night that some of the savings by going to PAYT would come directly from him. Mr. Rooney admitted at the meeting last night that he often does not have “enough time” to visit the recycling area of the transfer station, and as a result will often put items that could be recycled directly into the hopper. While I am sure Mr. Rooney is not nearly the only one who does this, I found it appalling that a member of the Board of Selectmen would admit this so willingly, and also admit that he would only be convinced to recycle if it was tied to his wallet. I’m sure people in Southboro all have varying degrees as to which they recycle, but PAYT will do no service to people who have made recycling a lifestyle choice and have done so for years (to the peanut butter person – I’m right there with you!) While I normally try to discuss conflicting issues with another person rather than go after the person directly, I thought this would be worthy to be brought to people’s attention.

dirty little secret
12 years ago

comercial vehicles should be weighed….i think the 5x is too arbitrary. PAYT works wonderfully where we sometimes vacation….roads are clean, they provide curbside single stream recycling….certainly motivates me to be very a diligent recycler!

12 years ago

I try to avoid Saturdays when going to the transfer station, so I haven’t seen the rude behaviors which prompted the decision to close the SWAP SHOP. I hope the time limit on the parking has helped alleviate the traffic problems on Saturdays, as during the week there is plenty of parking. Let’s try adding rules to the use of the transfer station before spending more money. Shelving on the walls would help eliminate some of the clutter, so that only the larger things would be on the floor. Give these changes and other suggestions some time and then revisit whether we need more space for our Swap Shop.

Years ago, in other towns where I have lived, when people put their trash on the sidewalk, others would go trash picking and bring home some items to fix up, sell at yard sales or use as is. Our SWAP SHOP replaces that reuse habit and is much nicer than stopping in front of someone’s house to look over their trash. To promote this reuse habit for those who are interested in it, is it possible to have a town online site for listing the things we know some people could use, so that the two parties could connect? Could we have a freecycle site for our town? People who bring toys to the Swap Shop, know that the toys will be taken so they wouldn’t need to list their toys., There are other items that could be used by others if the right people connect and not thrown out by the employees of the transfer station as trash. The people who would be looking for things are scout troop leaders, teachers, crafters, daycare staffs, fixer uppers, home decorators, etc. The website would eliminate some of what goes into the swap shop, but would still get the items used by other people and keep those items out of the trash.

I recycle all the time and we should make it imperative for everyone before resorting to PAYT. I dread that system! We already find so much trash on our more rural roads now and there will only be more with that system. Since we recycle and there are only two of us, we have two small supermarket bags of trash. I don’t know the size of the PAYT bags, but would I have to throw out partial bags in order ot get rid of trash each week. I would hate to have it sitting around for two weeks in order to fill up the bag and then would not be happy about the bag splitting.

We need to do something about the commercial dumpers! What I do see on a regular basis during my week time trips are the pick up trucks either dumping many, many trash bags or construction debris. To have that much trash, are they cleaning out basements, garages or attics for people at a profit or just going to the transfer station once a month. As far as the pick ups with construction trash, I would expect to see them once in awhile as there must be some people in town who do their own work on house projects, so they should be able to discard that trash. With the number of times I do see these people dumping construction debris, they have to be in that business. As others have questioned, where is that trash coming from? Why are they not paying more to use the transfer station or being sent somewhere else?

If you have gotten this far, thanks for reading my comments and questions!

12 years ago

I’m confused…weren’t the issues given for originally closing the swap shop rudeness, profiting off donated goods, dumping inappropriate/unusable items? How does making the swap shop LARGER alleviate any of this?
Listen I’m all for whatever it takes to keep it open, and I certainly wouldn’t mind a larger space. I just question what the selectmen’s issues really are. Seems to me there’s been a hidden agenda all along.

Donna McDaniel
12 years ago

Very interesting discussions…. would we had such focus on other issues in our town! But I write essentially to say that any number of times when I’ve visited the swap shop there has been a volunteer there, organizing things, making sure it is not just a clutter, etc. I’m guessing they are organized by the recycling (now the “green”) committee..perhaps not. Sound familiar to anyone?
I don’t know how the volunteers were scheduled but the idea might help. Yes… it gets pretty chilly around here but perhaps some possibility.

Frank Crowell
12 years ago
Reply to  Donna McDaniel

There is focus on at least one other issue in town, but the BOE does not want to join in the discussion on this blog. Could it be that we are just not worthy?

12 years ago

You can defend the Swap Shop all you want, but in reality its a closet with other peoples junk. Maybe it makes people feel like they are donating or giving back while giving away their trash, I dont know. Go socialize at the Spa. The traffic issue at the Dump is an easy one to solve… change the hours… stay open later one night a week and/or Sun… seems simple enough…. i.e. – 11-9 on Wednesdays. Please have the BOS focus on other issues, such as promoting a green community through recycling, ensuring the school district is operating efficiently and remains a top tier Mass District, and encouraging businesses to come to Southborough to increase tax revenue. Maybe its just me, but the Swap Shop should not be issue for any public official, unless there really is nothing else going on in the town. Mr. Rooney is right it is time for elected leaders to lead and offer suggestions on ways to reduce the burden on tax payers. He is also applauded for exploring all options,such as PAYT, even if it turns out not to be the best option.

Katie Ruddy
12 years ago
Reply to  Base

i think that the swap shop is a great place to put a little used items. it might not be a great idea to put cloth things in there because they get germs and lice attracted to them. but otherwise i think that the swap shop is a great place to get books and national geographics for my father’s collection. also, there are sometimes great art supplies in there. almost everybody can go in ther and find something helpful to them.

12 years ago

I have been living in this town for 22 years and think the Swap Shop is one of the best things about it, so I am happy it is staying! I have recycled and have gotten so many wonderful and useful things throughout the years, whether it be for my four kids, myself, or my home. I have never seen anyone be rude to anyone else when I have gone and have only had pleasant exchanges with the other people that have been there, including offers to help carry things to my car. Of course there will always be exception, but that’s life. It’s open until 6, so people can go after work during the week if they want to avoid the crowds on Sat. I don’t quite understand what all the fuss is about. All transfer stations are busy on Saturday’s, and a little patience and courtesy go a long way. As far as PAYT, I think it is a horrible idea and only promotes littering and illegal dumping, and anyone that thinks otherwise is in denial. I’ve seen it happen all too often. Most people who live in towns that have PAYT can’t stand it, and if they didn’t recycle before most likely still don’t. People that don’t live in this town love the way it works here and wish it was the case in their town. There have been a lot of great ideas thrown out there as far as shelving, larger space, etc. in regards to the Shop. It shouldn’t be something that costs much money, just some creativity. I feel blessed that I live in a town where one of the biggest problems we have is the Swap Shop! :)

Katie Ruddy
12 years ago

i think that they should expand the swap shop. it would make it less crowded and they wouldn’t have to clean it everyday. they could just make it go a little further back and mabe make a section for “furnature” because furnature takes up a LOT of space. one time i couldnt move to where i wanted to go because a HUGE dresser was sitting there and it was very heavy but most likely very helpful to someone.

-Katie :)

Art Fay
12 years ago

Wow the Swap Shop has devolved into quite a complex and multifaceted issue. How about tying it in with the whole school reduction issue. Instead of the multi-shed complex to be developed behind the transfer station, why not repurpose the Neary into a vast new swap shop? There would be many many rooms to sort and store other peoples junk, and the teachers could be converted to DPW employees acting as monitors since they already have experience controlling the behavior of children. Sounds like a win-win!

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