Middlebury attracts equine trash haulers

MIDDLEBURY — A new trash/recycling collection team is seeking to join Middlebury’s slate of haulers, an operation that is powered by oats and hay, rather than fossil fuels.
Patrick Palmer, Nick Hammond and Amanda Morse plan to bring horse-drawn curbside trash and recycling pick-up to Middlebury. Palmer, of New Haven’s Thornapple Farm, has been providing the service each Friday morning in Bristol for the past 17-and-a-half years. He, Morse and Hammond — a carpenter who also owns and works some draft horses of his own — now want to offer the most densely populated neighborhoods of Middlebury the option of having their refuse and recyclables taken away on a rustic, horse-drawn wagon.
To that end, Palmer has applied to the Addison County Solid Waste Management District (ACSWMD) for a license that is required for anyone seeking to haul waste for compensation. Palmer said he already has the requisite state permit.
“We’ve decided we’re going to do it, and let the chips fall where they may,” Palmer said of his service’s expansion into Middlebury, Addison County’s shire town. “It is an exciting new opportunity.”
It’s an opportunity made possible, in part, by the town of Middlebury’s decision to let lapse its curbside recycling contract with hauler Casella Waste Management. Beginning April 1, Middlebury residents will be responsible for contracting with their respective licensed trash haulers to also pick up their recyclables.
It should be noted that the Palmer and Hammond team will be but one among two-dozen choices of haulers from which residents can choose for curbside collection of waste. A complete list of those haulers can be found online at addisoncountyrecycles.org.
“Everyone seems to be receiving it well,” Beth Dow, a member of Middlebury’s recycling committee, said of the upcoming April 1 transition. “No one has been horribly unhappy.”
Meanwhile, Palmer and Hammond have spent the past several days canvassing some of Middlebury’s most populated neighborhoods to gauge interest in their horse-drawn service. They went door-to-door in Buttolph Acres last week and found several prospective customers. They promised to also visit Chipman Park, South Street and Weybridge Street, among other areas.
They have also been doing some measuring to make sure their horse-drawn wagon will fit through the historic, covered Pulp Mill Bridge on Seymour Street and are anticipating an interesting final leg of each pickup jaunt down Route 7 South to the solid waste management district’s transfer station.
“We have been bringing the trash wagon down with us as we go door-to-door; it’s a good visual aid,” Palmer said. “We have a lot of people who are interested.”
Some of that interest undoubtedly flows from the publicity — local, national and international — that Bristol’s curbside program has garnered through the years. Some of the folks driving through Bristol on Friday mornings do a double-take seeing Palmer and company leading the horse-drawn wagon, collecting trash and recyclables from approximately 300 customers. The wagon is topped with an average of 150 bags of trash each week, according to Palmer.
“We’ve had a few people say they moved to Bristol because of the trash route, when they were deciding whether to move to Middlebury, Bristol or Vergennes,” Palmer said.
Of course Middlebury will be a bigger job than Bristol. So Palmer plans on making his Middlebury runs two days per week, with two wagon teams — one for trash, the other for recycling. This will mean building another trash wagon, and the resourceful Palmer already knows how he’ll go about it. He has a horse-drawn trolley, from which he will extract the seats and convert it to a wagon for recyclables.
Palmer said his and Hammond’s low operating costs will benefit customers. The duo has been circulating a flier in Middlebury promising a $5 fee per 30-gallon bag, with free recycling (with at least one bag of trash).
“I think we’ll be pretty affordable,” Hammond said.
“We don’t have to worry about gas,” Palmer added matter-of-factly.
Palmer noted he built his trash wagon 17 years ago for $3,000. He compared that to the $130,000 cost of a garbage truck with a 10-year-life expectancy.
Hammond and Palmer acknowledged that some drivers of 200-plus horsepower vehicles in Middlebury might get a little antsy with the pace of a two-horsepower wagon.
“My thoughts about Middlebury are that I will have no problem with traffic, but traffic might have a problem with me,” he said, noting the wagon is likely to avoid Main Street.
“If the horse poops, we have to stop and pick it up.”
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].
PAT PALMER RIDES on the back of his horse-drawn trash-pickup wagon in Bristol last Friday morning. Palmer plans to expand his unique service to Middlebury next month.
Independent photo/Trent Campbell

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