Did you know that in Massachusetts certain items are banned from your trash? In 1990, Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) deemed certain items that should not be put into the trash either because they are hazardous or they are easily recyclable. The recyclables ones are:
- Ferrous & non-ferrous metals
- Glass & metal containers
- Leaves & yard waste
- Recyclable paper, cardboard & paperboard
- Single resin narrow-necked plastics (plastics #1 and #2)
- White goods (large appliances)
Metal, glass, paper, plastic. All commonly recyclable in Massachusetts.
Here’s the legal-ease:
“No person shall dispose, transfer for disposal, or contract for disposal of the restricted material except in accordance with the restriction established in the table. No landfill, transfer facility or combustion facility shall accept the restricted material except to handle, recycle or compost the material in accordance with a plan submitted pursuant to 310 CMR 19.017(5) and approved by the Department.”
I highlighted the word person in the above statement. Notice that this is generic. It applies to everyone, not just big businesses or just residents. E-V-E-R-Y-O-N-E!
What happens if these items are found in the trash?
If enforced, a fine can be issued in the amount of $100 to $25,000 for each day of violation. I spoke to our regional MassDEP representative who said that if they are able – they go after everyone – the person/company that threw out the recyclables, company who hauled it away, the municipality, and the landfill or incinerator that accepted it.
Even with these bans in place, recyclable material is still being thrown away. According to a study conducted at a local incinerator in 2010, waste entering this facility still had:
- 27.3% paper
- 11.6% plastic
- 5.7% metal
- 1.8% glass
In theory, another 45% of the trash being tossed in these MA towns could have been recycled. Almost half! As you can see from the picture I took at this very facility, there is a lot of cardboard and paper being tossed. Can you find the Christmas tree?
Why do municipalities want to increase recycling?
Although there are many who want to make a positive impact on the environment, usually the bottom line is money and compliance to the above ordinance.
I took a look at Westford’s disposal costs for 2012.
Recycling cost $240,000 for 2816 tons => $85 per ton
Solid Waste cost $1,173,352 for 8168 tons => $143 per ton
Granted recycling is picked up every other week in Westford so the cost of the trucks is ½ what it would be for trash pickup. For recycling, however, that is where the cost ends. We can recycle as much as we want without this pickup cost changing. The recycler is then able to take this resource, yes resource, separate it and resell it for a profit. In reality, the per ton cost ($85) will go down if we recycle more. Not so for trash.
For trash disposal, we not only pay for the trucks to pickup, but we pay an additional fee to the incinerator for each ton of trash disposed (a tipping fee as it is known in the industry). The total cost of solid waste is split about equally between pickup and disposal in this particular scenario. With approximately 45% of this 8168 tons of trash containing recyclables, there is a real money saving opportunity here. About $250,000!
Many people don’t even know about the waste ban. Why would they? You never hear of enforcement, businesses routinely neglect recycling because it costs extra, initially; even some cities and towns don’t force their own employees (including schools) to recycle! It drives me crazy. I would love to see more education and enforcement.
Why isn’t there more recycling?
I’d love to know! Many municipalities in MA have moved to a PAY-AS-YOU-THROW (PAYT) system. You pay for all or a portion of the trash you throw out. In these situations, recycling is usually free. In those towns/cities, recycling rates have sky rocketed and trash rates have plummeted! Recycling rates in Massachusetts vary from area to area. Usually in direct proportion to how much residents are asked to pay for their trash. The lowest trash rates being in those towns/cities where residents pay for all of their trash.
Normally, I am not one to support this type of negative reinforcement, but I am beginning to think that unless there is some immediate detrimental effect, people do not change their habits. And the results are pretty impressive.
Talk about a quick money maker! Take a few MassDEP employees a few days a month to go around and educate on the waste ban. Then round two: fine businesses, residents, haulers, incinerators and landfills still allowing recyclables into the trash. I’m sure the word would spread pretty quickly! This could boost the recycling industry and lower business’ and municipal disposal costs. I’m sure it’s more complicated than that, but still…. what an opportunity!
What are the recycling rules where you are?