Solid Waste and Recycling Resolution Passed by Newton City Council

The following resolution was passed unanimously on May 16, 2016 by Newton’s City Council: 

The City Council respectfully requests that the Department of Public Works develop a long range plan to improve the City’s recycling rate and reduce trash tonnage.
 
Whereas, the City of Newton recently hired a recycling coordinator/waste manager who is due to begin work on May 16, 2016, which provides the dedicated staff to be able to begin to make these improvements in recycling rates and reducing trash tonnage.
 
Whereas, the City of Newton has committed to sustainable environmental practices as outlined in its Newton Leads 2040 Vision, and  the Mayor has proclaimed that we,”must be bold and imaginative and not be afraid to make the tough decisions to move our City forward now and in the future” (Budget FY 17, Executive Summary Page 1).
 
Whereas, the City of Newton’s curbside recycling rate has been steadily falling from 11,036 tons in 2011 to 10,344 tons in 2015 despite an increase in households and population.
 
Whereas, trash disposal tonnage has been increasing or remained flat for the last 5 years reaching 18,453 tons of trash (not including bulky waste which allows collection of up to 5 items per week per household at no extra charge to Newton residents) or approximately 575 pounds of trash per person per year.
 
Whereas, the City is spending $72/ton to dispose of trash and $61 ton to dispose of single stream recyclables costing millions of dollars every year.
 
Whereas, State data indicates that about half of the trash being burned or buried in Massachusetts could be recycled which could save an estimated $163 million in disposal costs for just 7 types of recyclables including plastics, textiles, metals and paper worth approximately $217 in 2013.
 
Whereas, Newton sends its trash to the Saugus wheelabrator waste to energy facility (WTE) which emits a steady stream of carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide and nitrous oxides into the air even with the best pollution control mechanisms in place.
 
Whereas, waste to energy incinerators emit more CO2 per unit of energy produced than a coal fired plant.
 
Whereas, waste-to-energy is very inefficient way to produce energy because recycling conserves three to five times more energy than WTE generates because manufacturing new products from recycled materials uses much less energy than making products from virgin raw materials.
 
Whereas, for every 4 tons of trash burned results in 1 ton of toxic ash which must be land-filled, which in the case of the Saugus facility is in an unlined landfill surrounded by wetlands, which would never be allowed to be permitted today, and which the town is seeking to close permanently by the end of the year.
 
Whereas, solid waste management is an important contributor to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, which Massachusetts is bound by law to reduce 25 percent by 2020 below 1990 levels and 80 percent by 2050.
 
The plan should include but not be limited to:
 
Consider the strategy  of a “zero waste” goal. This is a process that sees waste as a resource that has value and takes a holistic approach towards managing that resource. This includes, but is not limited to education and outreach to citizens on reducing consumption, maximizing recycling, encouraging re-use and re-purposing of materials and products.
 
The Department has already set a laudable curbside recycling goal of 45% by 2017. The City of Newton should continue to set ambitious, yet attainable goals that are at least consistent with the State’s 10 year Solid Waste Master Plan. These programs should include a cost benefit analysis and evaluate staffing needs for carrying out such programs.
 
Require a feasibility study into expanding recycling facilities to businesses, institutions and condominiums complexes throughout the City of Newton and report back the results to the Public Facilities Committee no later than November 1st 2016. This should include looking at special permits whose terms require that the applicant provide private recycling and trash services.
 
The Mayor’s response to Resolutions #1 and #2 may be found here: Resolution Responses 05-18-16.