Trash Cart Rollout Causes Some Confusion
By Anne Levin
Between a delay in delivery of new trash carts and a flyer with the wrong date for pickup of the old ones, the mid-February debut of Princeton’s new trash collection system did not go as smoothly as planned. Several complaints were lodged on the app NextDoor from residents who claimed they were not aware of the new program, despite information in the town’s newsletter, stories in the local press, on flyers, and on social media.
Princeton Councilwoman Eve Niedergang, who serves on the Infrastructure and Operations Committee and is liaison to the Princeton Environmental Commission, has been busy posting information to explain the program and correct some misperceptions about its purposes.
“I’ve been very active on NextDoor in the past few days, to repeat the facts about the program,” she said Tuesday morning. “It was significant to me that no one came onto the Council meeting last night to complain. So hopefully, the information is getting out there.”
The new system is “part of a larger effort to make more fiscally and environmentally responsible changes to how the town approaches waste management,” reads a press release compiled by Taft Communications, the town’s communications consultant, and issued by the municipality after the rollout.
Each household has received one 64-gallon trash cart, designed to save labor by the use of robotic arms. Carts are equipped with a chip linking them to a specific address. Residents who feel they need an additional cart can order another one for $300 a year; those who want a 32-gallon cart as a second receptacle can get one for $150. Households experiencing economic hardship can submit a request for a reduced fee.
Responding to concerns about those costs, Niedergang said, “We’re very sensitive to the fact that for some families it would be a challenge, but hopefully we are providing an incentive for people to recycle more, and think about how they purchase items.”
The press release from the municipality
outlines the changes to the system. “More efficient bulk waste collection routes reduce the consumption of fuel and the total hours worked, helping to put less of a strain on both finances and emissions,” it reads, also mentioning “anticipated cost savings from using one driver and a ‘tipper’ instead of two drivers.”
The changes in hauling trash and managing waste “will not only help us contain costs, but also strengthen our response to climate change and create a healthier relationship with the environment,” Niedergang is quoted in the release.
Due to pandemic-related labor and materials shortages, the cost of managing waste has risen dramatically. For Princeton, that increase has been estimated to be 100 percent higher than the existing cost.
“The real thing driving this was cost,” said Niedergang. “We have other costs, too, that have gone up, so we’re trying to be careful stewards of the taxpayers’ money. For most people, one can is going to be fine. For some, it is not, and that’s why we have a financial assistance program.”
The next stage of the rollout is scheduled to begin Monday, March 13, when those who want to dispose of old trash bins or carts can place them, empty, at the curb on collection day. A sign must be taped to the bins, reading “TRASH.”
For more information, contact the municipality’s waste team at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Niedergang at email@example.com.