WESTFIELD, NJ — The annual curbside collection of bulky waste — called “junk day” by many — is not happening in Westfield this year, the result of the increased cost of pickup and declining resident participation, the town administrator said.
The increasingly competitive market for waste collection combined with Westfield’s requirement that bulk waste be collected within a week of its being deposited and the popularity of alternative options provided to residents prompted Westfield’s decision this year to ditch the annual program, Town Administrator Jim Gildea said.
“Participation in the program has dropped off dramatically,” Gildea said. “Years ago, we used to have thousands of people participate.”
Part of the reason for the reduced participation is the cost.
In 2018, the cost of the program rose by $105 per permit to $185 apiece, prompting the town to encourage that neighbors split the cost of permits. The town maintained that same permit fee in 2019 with the option to dispose of 750 pounds of waste curbside.
Further challenging Westfield, Gildea said, is the town’s requirement that the hauler pick up the waste within one week of it being dropped curbside. Residents of Westfield just wouldn’t tolerate the sight of the extra debris and this in turn hiked the cost of the program, he said
“For many years, actually, we got a lot of complaints from residents about debris in the streets and the pickers coming through,” Gildea said. Surrounding municipalities that run the program do not face this issue, he said.
As an alternative to the curbside collection of bulk waste, the town has encouraged residents to bring their own bulky waste to the Conservation Center, where residents can drop household bulk waste for a $30 fee per carload and even mattresses for a $25 fee (depending on the size), according to the town website.
“It’s close to 1,000 permits per year now,” Gildea said. “It’s a very excellent program, and most of the stuff that was on the curb was not large stuff.”
And for its second year, the town’s Green Team hosted a “Free Market” Sept. 26 where residents were invited to drop off items they didn’t want and pick up some new ones for free. During a recent town council meeting, Councilman David Contract noted this year’s success.
“We collected, we estimated about four tons of goods and about a ton was taken back by residents and we donated most of the rest,” said Contract, representative to the Green Team.
Other people have found their own way to carry on junk day. Resident Brendan Galligan has been coordinating a more localized junk day with his neighbors by splitting the cost of a dumpster.
“It’s surprisingly cheap if shared among five or six families; often around $500, which works out to $80-100 per family,” said Galligan, who sits on the board of education. “That’s in the ballpark of what the town charged for cleanup week permits five years ago and far less than what the town charged more recently.”
Most household waste is bulky but not particularly heavy, and the final dumpster fees are based on weight, said Galligan, who as a result recommends getting the largest dumpster available, “even if you don't think you’ll fill it.”
Resident Tony LaPorta, however, still pines for the time when the town offered curbside collection of household bulky waste.
The former town councilman recalls getting the program approved during his tenure in 1993 and noted that certain surrounding municipalities, including Cranford and Scotch Plains, still provide the service.
“I’m disappointed,” LaPorta said. “I believe this bulky waste cleanup was one of the more popular services offered by the town of Westfield to its residents and that the mayor and her administration just has no interest in continuing this.”
Email Matt Kadosh at firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter: @MattKadosh
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