A Look At Waste

While recycling is collected by a contractor chosen by the township, Nether Providence residents are left on their own to dispose of their waste. The township lists six haulers that currently collect trash in the township.

A few decades ago, the township considered changing to a single hauler system. Local business interests pushed back and ultimately the idea was scrapped. But the need to change from the current system has persisted. Nether Providence is unusual in handling waste this way. According to the county’s recent Municipal Waste System Overview,

80% of municipalities and 85% of the population of Delaware County have municipality-provided trash collection, either from municipal owned and operated trucks, or through contracted services with a private hauling company that services every household. The remainder of residents contract directly with a private hauler themselves as required under municipal ordinance.

New residents are often puzzled by this unusual system. There are good reasons so few municipalities operate the way that Nether Providence does.

  • Garbage trucks are the most common heavy vehicles on many of the township streets. Having 7 trucks (six haulers plus recycling) traveling each street once or twice a week damages township maintained roadways.
  • As heavy vehicles, these trucks generate an outsized amount of carbon emissions in our township.
  • Many of the haulers operate outside of the times allowed by township ordinance, creating noise pollution during times residents are asleep (sometimes before 6 am in Garden City, the allowed start time is 7:30 am).
  • If it were to implement them, the township must contract separately for other services like composting or yard waste, making them cost prohibitive.
  • Having 7 haulers is inefficient leading to significantly higher costs for residents.

The proponents of the current system highlight its flexibility and how each resident can negotiate the terms of their contract with their waste hauler. But for most residents, the current system has more negatives than positives. The last point, price, is one that’s been hard to quantify, but the county’s recent waste overview has provided some more solid numbers.

In Nether Providence, a resident recently priced out trash service from multiple haulers and found the best rate was around $80/quarter, for a total of $320/year. The township also hauls recycling, which is paid for through taxes, at a cost of $66/household. Combining the two, the compare price is $386/year.

Media borough handles waste, recycling and composting for residents. The total budget item for these services comes out to $226/household. Similarly, Aston township’s sanitation budget (Aston has municipal waste and recycling, only Media composts food waste) is $210/household. Springfield also has municipal waste handling and costs $260/household. Ridley contracts with Mascaro and costs $229/household and Brookhaven contracts with B&L for $245/household. Swarthmore contracts their services out to B&L for a cost of $340/household. Upper Providence has an unusual system, the township has a contract with a specified hauler, but each household must sign up for and pay for service individually so nothing passes through the township. The price of that system for residents is $221/year.

Those are the three models nearby – handling trash with township employees and equipment, contracting with a single hauler, or negotiating a contract for residents with a single hauler. Each of these systems sees only one hauler traveling the streets, reducing the number of heavy vehicles and in many cases costing around 1/3 less than Nether Providence’s current system.

Also provided in the data is information about the amount of trash and recycling produced per person in each municipality. I have questions about how this data was collected, because in many cases it had to be estimated. Contracted haulers often mix trash and recycling between municipalities, so while Media’s numbers are probably accurate as the municipality handles it, Nether Providence’s are likely more uncertain.

But, if accurate, the data does suggest a question – why is Nether Providence so wasteful? We produce almost double the trash of Swarthmore and Media per person. Are there demographic reasons? There are, for instance, more children in Nether Providence (25% are under 18) and Haverford (also 25%) than Media (14%) and Swarthmore (21%). Is it the nature of the municipality? Nether Providence is much more residential and less dense than Media. Also, its evident that a lot of potential recycling from Ridley, Aston, Brookhaven and Chester is getting incinerated and there’s huge room for improvement. With tipping fees for waste shooting up and recyclables value high, it’s not even clear recycling costs communities that much. According to the data above, Haverford (which recycles heavily) pays $179/ton of waste and Ridley (which doesn’t) pays $164/ton of waste.

Categories: Government, NPTownship