Background: Private Hauler regulations

solid.wasteHere’s the brief prepared by Doug Halley  (Health Director) and Jim Snyder-Grant (Green Acton) for the Board of Health:

Date: June 12, 2014
From: Doug Halley and Green Acton
To: Board of Health

Subject: Background Information for Acton Board of Health regarding proposed permitting changes for private trash haulers

Summary: This briefing provides background information in support of adjusting permitting requirements for private trash haulers to require them to report tonnages of trash and recyclables to the Town in substantially the same way that the Town is required to report tonnages of trash and recyclables to the state.

  1. The Board of Health is the appropriate body for making these proposed permitting changes.
  2. These changes will serve public health and other Town and Commonwealth  purposes.
  3. These changes will not unduly burden haulers or town staff.


  1. The Board of Health is the appropriate body for making these proposed permitting changes.

Boards of Health are given the authority for permitting private haulers in MGL 111 Chapter 31A:

Key quotes: “No person shall remove or transport garbage, offal or other offensive substances through the streets of any city or town without first obtaining a permit from the board of health of such city or town” and “reasonable rules and regulations … may be established by such board of health.”

Many towns have taken this step already. Here are some samples:



  1. These changes will serve public health and other Town purposes.

Reducing trash and increasing recycling are goals of the Commonwealth and the Town. For the Commonwealth “Solid Waste Master Plan: A Path To Zero Waste” see The Town’s goals for solid waste are expressed in the latest Comprehenisive Community Plan, Acton 2020.

The health-related reasons for reducing the solid waste stream and increasing recycling are primarily related to the negative health impacts associated with trash disposal, including air pollution (and some water pollution) from incineration, and water pollution (and some air pollution) from landfills. For both landfills and incinerators, some reductions in harm have come from increased regulatory controls, but we are now at the point where it is much more financially and environmentally efficient to focus state and town action on reducing the amount of trash disposed  of then to add even more onerous requirements on incinerators and landfills.

From the Commonwealth perspective, recycling instead of trash disposal is also a large net job creator. Recycling work is generally done at regional MRFs (Materials Recovery Facilities), where employment is increasing, where trash disposal is increasingly becoming an out-of-state effort as new local landfill space and new incinerators are held back by cost considerations, both for land acquisition and meeting regulatory requirements.

The Town currently has large information gaps about how to focus any future trash reduction and recycling efforts. We have good information about the tonnages of residential trash that are disposed of and recycled via the transfer station,  but we have no clue about commercial trash, and no clue about the approximately half of the town’s residential trash that is not handled at the transfer station.

The intent of these proposed permitting changes is to start gathering that information from private haulers, who handle all of our commercial trash and about half of the residential trash. With that information, the Town can start planning for how to most efficiently reduce trash and increase recycling.

  1. These changes will not unduly burden haulers or town staff.  

The proposal from the Health Department is to collect this information monthly from each of the 18 [???] or so private haulers that operate in town. For each hauler, the monthly report would simply include this data:

  1. Name of Hauler / calendar month this report covers
  2. Tons of trash collected in Acton [or primarily in Acton, see (4)]
  3. Tons of material recycled in Acton [or primarily in Acton, see (4)]. The recycling data would be broken down into whatever categories the hauler uses for recycling: for example, some haulers  provide single-stream recycling, some collect different types of recycling separately.
  4. For haulers that cover multiple towns in one truck run and thus can’t separate one town from another:
    1. How many Acton and non-Acton households or businesses does this report cover?

Each hauler would be responsible for only one report per month.  Recyclable materials and solid waste are delivered for further processing by private haulers to facilities that charge (or pay) by the ton.The information they would be providing to the Town would already be available to them as a routine part of their operations  The information in part 4 above is to avoid any requirement that businesses start splitting their town truck routes up if that is not convenient for them. The Town can get reasonable estimates for planning purposes by simply multiplying the total trash or reyclables collected by the percentage of Acton establishments served.

From the Town point of view, this will simply be one more shared spreadsheet that is maintained, filled in with data from one piece of paper from each hauler each month. Right now, the town is already responsible for reporting trash and recycling to the state. Right now, they only report the transfer station activity. After this proposed change, at the end of the year,  the private hauler data will be summed up for transferring to the town’s report to the state of trash and recycling.  The report to the state is quite flexible in format, and s able to handle the variety of recycling types reported by the state.

Doug Halley estimates that this additional work will not appreciably increase the staff work of the department, which already includes spreadsheet tracking, for example, of every septage haul for every household in Acton. In particular, the small increase in labor would not call for an increase in the fees charged to haulers.  His recommendation is to require this information monthly, partly to allow for the department to intervene on a timely basis if any private hauler is not meeting this requirement. Ultimately, the enforcement mechanism would be to disallow a hauler to turn down the annual permit application for haulers that were not meeting their reporting requirements, but monthly reporting would allow the department to intervene well before the annual repermitting, to allow for  an easier compliance conversation without immediately needing to threaten non-renewal.


Health department staff and Green Acton recommend these changes to private hauler permitting requirements, and recommend that the Board of Health discuss this topic and schedule a hearing.

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