March 15, 2023

Municipal Waste Team Responds to Letter Regarding New Garbage System

To the Editor:

This is in response to the letter “Wondering Who Benefits From New Garbage Collection System” [Mailbox, March 8].

Municipal trash collection programs are governed by state law. Contracting with a trash hauler requires preparing detailed bid specifications using the state’s Uniform Bid Specification, soliciting and receiving bids, analyzing those bids, and then awarding the contract to the lowest acceptable bidder. There are no negotiations beyond this process — the municipality sets the collection parameters, and the bidder must meet them.  

In the last few years of our previous contract, which expired in January 2023, Princeton experienced approximately 20 percent increases in the cost of the collection service due to pandemic-related shortages of labor and materials. Trash haulers have been unable to hire and retain personnel, and on-the-job injuries further exacerbate the problem. At the same time, other New Jersey municipalities were reporting that their collection contract fees were increasing by 60 to 100 percent when they solicited bids for unchanged collection programs. As such, the governing body worked to contain additional costs and act as a good steward of the environment. These steps include uniform carts and bulk waste collection by reservation.  

The new waste collection contract requires that households use a new 32- or 64-gallon trash cart. Princeton staff and a waste management consultant determined that a 64-gallon cart is more than sufficient to contain the 0.75 tons of trash generated on average by a Princeton residence each year. If a residence generates more waste, they can request another cart and pay an annual fee to offset the additional extra trash disposal fee that Princeton will incur. By changing the system to a uniform cart-based collection, the hauler now can choose to use automated equipment for trash pickup in much of Princeton. Automated collections typically require less labor and result in fewer injuries to workers. 

Additionally, to control costs, Princeton specified in the bid that bulk pickup would occur by reservation. With the reservation system, a dedicated truck can go directly to those homes with bulk items, saving fuel, time, and effort and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. When a reservation is requested, the homeowner is provided with the date of pick up — usually the following Wednesday.

The trash program changes proposed by Princeton — uniform carts, cart-based collection, and bulk pickup by reservation — resulted in a service bid that increased the Municipality’s costs by approximately 50 percent instead of a potential 60-100 percent increase as realized by other municipalities.  

We encourage the public to review Council meeting recordings from May 23, August 8, November 14, and December 12, 2022, on the Municipality’s YouTube channel and to go to to learn more about the changes made to trash collection services. We also encourage the public to sign up for the town newsletter  at to stay informed about what is happening in town.

Waste Team
Municipality of Princeton