Setting Newton’s Immediate and Short-Term Recycling and Solid Waste Goals

The goal of the Solid Waste and Recycling Resolution #1 passed by the full Newton City Council on May 16, 2016 is the development of a long term solid waste and recycling plan.  Please see the following steps/action items that will help Newton to achieve more immediate and shorter term recycling and solid waste goals stated in the Resolution:

Residential Recycling Program

A citywide education and outreach program on what the City currently allows in the green carts, what is prohibited and what can be brought to Rumford Ave. This should include, but not be limited to a citywide mailing to all households who participate in the residential curbside program. Waneta Trabert, Newton’s new Solid Waste and Recycling Manager (SWR) will be soon be developing an education and outreach program for FY17. This will include a mailing to all residents that the city services tentatively scheduled mid-late September (significant funding is available for these programs).

Increased audits of  recycling carts and better enforcement and follow up of violations. Put in place a system of tracking the current enforcement by Waste Management, which is usually done when carts are visibly contaminated or overflowing.

Take advantage of new  technology including new apps that give updated information on trash and recycling pick ups. ReCollect is the program. Boston and Lowell use it. The implementation of this program will be central to the FY17 education and outreach plan.

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 December 31, 2016. This should include looking at special permits whose terms require that the applicant provide private recycling and trash services. This could be part of a Solid Waste and Recycling Working Group made up, but not limited to the SWR Manager,the Director of DPW, the Mayor or his designee, a member of the City Council, a member of the Solid Waste Commission and/or a member of the recycling committee.

School Recycling

A commitment from the school leadership to change the culture of recycling from being an afterthought, to a district-wide resource recovery operation that reflects our commitment as a community to environmental sustainability, the preservation of our natural resources, protecting the oceans from non-biodegradable plastic waste and preserving a healthy, vibrant planet for generations to come. This could start in the form of a letter to all parents outlining recycling goals for September 2016.

A commitment from the Superintendent and the Director of Operations to achievable recycling goals within the next 6 months, 12 months and 24 month time frame (exact figures to be decided).

Apply for the School Recycling Assistance grant from MassDEP next year to be implemented district-wide at the beginning of the 2017-2018 school year.

Clear signage in all the schools about what can be recycled. Educational posters on why recycling and waste reduction programs are important. Where does Newton’s Trash go?

Explore opportunities to integrate recycling into classroom science education if feasible.

City officials/staff and particularly the Solid Waste & Recycling Manager will collaborate with the NNHS Recycling club, NSHS Environmental Club and Green Newton’s Students for a Greener World (SGW) to raise awareness about recycling and resource recovery programs within schools and support school initiatives.

Determine the current process for recycling and what the current barriers are to increasing school recycling rates. A recent tour of both high schools show a need for a strong, unified message that prioritizes recycling goals and education about recycling programs, and the implementation of processes that are consistently reinforced and convenient to carry out by custodial staff.

An open and transparent process of how the recycling steps are carried out and who is responsible for meeting recycling goals in each individual school. This would include, but not limited to the Director of Operations, the principals and all custodial staff.

Increase recycling pick ups at all schools and modify as needed. This will be coordinated by SWR Manager.

Explore the funding of a sustainability director for all the schools, who would oversee and coordinate all solid waste, recycling and composting efforts in the long term. Apply for grant funding of this position by December 2016.

A plan to ensure all water fountains and water filling stations are clean and in good working order in all schools and playgrounds by December 2016.

A plan to phase out the sale of bottled water in schools by September 2017.

Parks & Recreation (picks up trash and recycling from village centers, parks and recreation areas)

Better signage and/or education and mailings on the types of materials can currently be recycled in Big Belly units. This should include a list of items that cannot go into Big Belly Recycling Unit, e.g. styrofoam, plastic bags, liquids.

A public education program aimed at reducing the contamination rates of “away from home” recyclables.

The SWR Manager will work with Waste Management to determine acceptable contamination rates.

Better collaboration between SWR Manager and Environmental Affairs to improve recycling rates and decrease contamination rates.  This includes re-designing the process as to how the Parks and Recreation Department manages the trash and recycling pick ups and consider removing this responsibility from the department all together.

Currently, the department has two conventional trash trucks and 6-8 pick-up trucks used in operations. There is no clear process as to how how trash and recycling are kept separate and most recycling is ending up in trash trucks.

Implement a service switch so that Parks and Recreation carts/dumpsters are picked up by WM instead of being disposed of at Rumford. This would immediately improve the current situation.

There appears to be a culture and history of throwing most recycling into the trash which needs to be reversed. This is important. This cannot be tolerated. It is a state law (landfill/incineration banned materials) and must be core to the City’s efforts from the top down.

If trash & recycling pick up operations continue to be managed by Parks and Recreation it will be important to replace at least one of the two trash trucks (one of which is nearing the end of its useful life), with a split truck which keeps recycling and trash separate.

Parks & Recreation will coordinate with other city departments to ensure that all parks and public spaces that have existing water fountains are clean and in good working order to encourage the use of reusable water bottles.

Alison Leary
City Council,Ward 1
Newton, MA