Tag Archives: Recycle

Recycling Day – Special Collections!

Mark your calendar!

May 9th from 9 – 1 PM
Town Special Collection Recycling Day
Location TBA

There you can recycle items that CANNOT be taken curbside. They are:

  • Large Rigid Plastics (lawn furniture, storage bins, trash barrels, etc.)
  • Styrofoam (clean and dry)
  • Textiles – old clothing (ripped, worn, etc.) and shoes
  • Paper Shredding (a donated service)
  • Electronics – anything with a cord (*Note: these are taken at Butler Elementary School for a small fee as part of their PTA fundraiser)

2nd Annual Recycling Q&A

Yes! Reducing, reusing and specifically….Recycling!!

Sustainable Belmont Meeting
Wednesday, April 1
7 PM
Belmont Public Library

For our next meeting, we will have Carolyn Dann Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection Municipal Coordinator,  Mary Beth Calnan Belmont Recycling Coorinator and local experts for our 2nd annual Q & A on Recycling.

Carolyn Dann has a long career in the industry. She was Financial Analyst for Wheelabrator, a waste-to-energy pioneering company for 6 years, then spent 11 years as National HHW Consultant (Waste Watch Center). She has served the past 14 years as MassDEP Municipal Coordinator, a position in which she consults to towns in NE3 region.

What does compliance look like in Belmont? What will be the effects of the new practices of our hauler on March 30th? With a new DPW Director and a contract to be renewed in less than 2 years, what’s on our curb, what’s in our future? How is Belmont working on the MassDEP strategic plan for 2015?

*And, if you can’t be there, send us your question and we’ll be sure to ask them!

Easy Peasy Help Request: Can you print this flyer for the Q & A? Your help printing and displaying this flyer in any public area you frequent is VERY appreciated! (don’t worry if it’s not color!). Thank you!!


Recycle Q & A Recap – Part 3

Bits and Bobs and Food Scraps

Sustainable Belmont hosted a Q&A with Mary Beth Calnan and Wellington PTO Members to discuss recycling issues in town, including the great efforts underway at the elementary schools. Participants were invited to submit questions and share ideas during the evening and in advance of the discussion. In our previous 2 recaps, we discussed costs and plastics. Our final recap addresses the bits and bobs that continue to confound and food waste.


We learned to keep the cap on the bottle to recycle, but what of the plastic-y aluminum foil from the yogurt container – recycle it? YES! It goes with aluminum, a.k.a. tin foil. Doug points out “…this [the foil container tops] is a growing fraction of the aluminum waste stream, and aluminum recycling is probably the most important residential fraction to recover due to the energy-intensity of manufacturing”. Personally, I am relieved by this bit ‘o’ news, because I’m not quite ready to give up my store-bought yogurt.

A similar plastic mixed item is ASEPTIC containers, which raised concerns at our event. What are aseptic containers? From the town site, these are: “…juice, broth cartons, etc. …cartons with plastic pour spouts are acceptable.” Currently, these go in paper – this is somewhat confusing because of the very clear plastic content in the container but technology has advanced to separate these materials and recover them. That said, the latest news is that they may be going back into cans, glass, plastics, etc., so stay tuned to the town site for details. We can only hazard a guess that this is due to a demand issue or a technological change in the processing. If you’re curious about the current processing, we found this blog which has a great overview of hydrapulping.

Still more bits? O.K., Polystyrene foam, a.k.a. Styrofoam: you can recycle clean and dry with ReFoamIt in Leominster – they hold events in various towns and receive foam directly at their site. It must be clean and dry. If you can eliminate Styrofoam from coming in, that is ideal – this material has been shown to be significantly hazardous to the health of workers manufacturing it.

Did I mention clean and dry? This is a serious waste problem when you consider the quantity of foam trays be consumed daily at the schools and area businesses. Polystyrene foam is used because it’s lightweight, therefore costs less to ship and haul away. You could fill a tractor-trailer and it might just weigh less than my grandmother (she’s tiny!). The problem is, while it’s cheap it doesn’t go away. Members of the Belmont PTA/PTO Green Team Alliance are looking for alternatives for our schools. Nearby, Brookline has implemented a ban on polystyrene (and plastic bags) and they are not alone in their policy. Could Belmont be next?

Food Waste

Even if you were raised by the Clean-Plate Club, you simply cannot avoid food waste. In developed countries, the bulk of food waste is attributed to end-use – we simply buy and plan to consume more than we do. In developing countries, the bulk of food waste happens before it gets to homes – a result of challenges with transportation and storage. Lesson: buy what you need and eat it.

Still, even if you are incredibly frugal, you will create peelings, skins, stems, and such that require disposal. Food waste can be composted by you or by a hauler you pay. If you compost, do NOT include animal products (fat, grease, oil, bones, meat, cheese, etc.) in your compost. These items will attract rodents and will not break down in a home composter, which doesn’t get hot enough internally to decompose these materials.

DPW sells 2 types of composters for $25 each and they provide great instructions on how to compost. Most important – keep a balance of browns (leaves and grass) to greens (veg and fruit scraps). Interestingly, if you’re low on leaves, your paper towels, napkins, tissues and newspapers can be used as ‘browns’ – one more waste stream you can divert!

Alternatively, compost indoors with a worm bin. The principals are the same, there is no odor as long as you keep everything balanced (no overfeeding the red wrigglers!). You can go for the ready-made or try to make one of your own, like the Garden Gal.  For both options, you will have to experiment with how much ‘system’ you need to absorb your food scraps.

Compost – Methane Issue

Composting is important for nourishing the soil. Doing it locally, avoids the costs of manufacturing and shipping petroleum-based soil inputs which avoids carbon emissions, among other avoidances. There is no doubt that compost has a role in our home gardens but absorbing all our food waste is not possible by home composting for many residents. Methane: A New Reason to Fight Food Waste

Methane, the gas produced by decomposition, is a growing concern for its impact on global warming. Department of Environmental Protection reports that methane is 20x more harmful over a 100-year period than CO2. Fortunately, this same source of emissions is a valuable source of fuel. Massachusetts is working to direct this resource to anaerobic digesters in the state, creating a new, clean source of energy. Starting in October of 2014, institutions and businesses producing 1 ton or more of food waste per week will be required to divert this material to a specialized collection site. Businesses and others can learn more about how to manage this waste via RecyclingWorks Massachusetts. To see a small-scale example, Jordan Dairy Farm in Rutland, MA is a great one.

Deer Island water treatment facility already uses an anaerobic digester to provide energy for its processes. In fact, if you put food waste down your garbage disposal, you are actually sending it to the Deer Island anaerobic digester. As with composting, you still can’t put fats, oils, grease or other animal products down the pipes or you will create an undesirable plumbing situation in your home and beyond.

We can expect to see more food waste hauling programs in our future. And, we would love to see more product stewardship, as several attendees pointed, i.e., companies that take responsibility for the materials that they are producing by making them easier to recycle – using commonly accepted recycled materials, simplifying packaging, employing sustainable practices, etc. Massachusetts lags behind many states in product stewardship.

Without a doubt, recycling is important but reducing is essential to the conservation of our resources and environment. Reduce or eliminate single-use items. Buy quality goods that endure. Reduce waste before it comes in to your home and you will reduce waste in the environment.

Green Alliance among the Belmont Schools

Members of our various green teams and parents involved in sustainability activities at the public schools in Belmont have come together this past year to address concerns about sustainability. They are the newly formed “Belmont PTA/PTO Green Alliance”.

The Belmont PTA/PTO Green Team Alliance seeks to share and advocate best practices in sustainability for the Belmont Public Schools.

Participants in the alliance are currently coordinating on issues such as reducing waste, educating on and monitoring recycling, behavior changes to reduce energy consumptions, and fostering walking and biking to schools. By sharing best practices and addressing issues with municipal employees and elected officials, they endeavor to make our schools healthier along with our local environment.

If you would like to learn more about the alliance or participate, please contact Amanda Mujica at amanda [at] amandamujicadesign.com

Recycle Q & A Recap – Part 2

Plastic, Lots o’ Plastic

Sustainable Belmont hosted a Q&A with Mary Beth Calnan and Wellington PTO Members to discuss recycling issues in town, including the great efforts underway at the elementary schools. Participants were invited to submit questions and share ideas during the evening and in advance of the discussion.

In our first recap, we distinguished between materials recycled and total materials diverted from the conventional waste removal. Diverted materials include those that are recycled at the curb, food scraps composted at home, yard waste and items recycled at special events or donated in usable condition. Increasing what we divert – and reducing overall – relieves costs for waste removal and conserves our environment.

For complete information on what is accepted curbside, go to the town DPW page.

From our event, we share a few tips specific to PLASTIC:

When it comes to plastic bottles, we learned that not only may plastic rings and covers stay on, it is preferable that they stay on so that the machine will divert the cap with the bottle. If it gets separated and filtered to the wrong place, it won’t get recycled. Interestingly, the Water Project cites that only 1 in 5 bottles actually makes it to the recycling center.

When it comes to other plastic containers labeled #1-#7 the key words are ‘container’ AND a number – you can’t have just one or the other and be certain that the plastic you are recycling is the desired type for the receiving company. To be clear, a plastic container is not just a bottle – many food items like take-out, berries, eggs, etc. come in plastic containers. So, what do you do with your numbered, non-container plastics?! Fortunately, you CAN recycle them but, you will have to wait for a specific event that takes them. Luckily, there are 2 coming up:

MAY 3rd 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Belmont will hold a Recycle Day in conjunction with DPW Day

MAY 3rd  8 to NOON Daniel Butler Elementary School PTA will host an electronics recycling drive (a common source of plastics).

And, if you happen to be out of town, check out this guide for more options.

Our last all-plastic item is the all-too-convenient plastic bag. Material Recovery Facilities, a.k.a. MRFs (pronounced Murph’s) – they hate plastic bags. Why? These stretchy buggers get caught in the mechanics like corn silks in your teeth, like gum on your shoe, like dinosaur feet in tar. Ew, yuck. They force the machine to stop, which means $$ stop, in order to clean it of these restrictive infiltrators. And what happens when they are removed? They end up in landfill, oceans or incinerators.

Plastic bags have NO business in your recycling bin.

Take these rascals back to the supermarket where you will find a nice bin at the door just for this! If you are part of Butler, Wellington or Burbank Elementary Schools, you can recycle the very same bags there as part of the TREX program in schools. Be aware that when you go to the grocery store, you may not find a lovely description of all the plastics that you can recycle there – many originate from purchases there – however TREX has confirmed with us that all groceries chains in our area take the following plastics:

*Clean & Dry*

  • Ziploc bags (no hard plastic sliding closure, regular zip-locking style is accepted)
  • Diaper/Paper Towel/TP/Napkin overwrap
  • Bread Bags
  • Grocery Store Bags
  • Produce Bags
  • Air Pillows (deflated)
  • Dry Cleaning Bags
  • Case Wrap (ex: from bulk item purchases usually used to hold items to a cardboard tray)

You can find a handy picture on our site. Do you have to scrub them? That depends – you can shake the crumbs from a bread bag and be done, or if you have a very dirty bag, you will have to sponge & dry thoroughly.

TIP: Keep a container where you unload your plastic-wrapped goods to immediately stow for recycling later. Make it easy – anywhere you have trash, have a recycling container.

Once you get the hang of identifying these common plastics, you’ll be happy to see 50% or more of your plastic intake being diverted to this recycle stream, but remember – even with all these options for recycling of plastics, the best impact for the environment and our health is to reduce as much as possible.

Part 3 to come – Aseptic container recycling, odd bits, product stewardship, the bottle bill and food waste.


Recycle Q & A Recap – Part 1

Thank you to Mary Beth and to Wellington PTO members, Anna Churchill and Doug Koplow for generously participating in our Recycling Q & A – and, thank you to everyone who attended and submitted questions!

We received many questions, an great indicator of engagement and care for this particular subject. With so much to cover, I am posting the recap in a few parts.

How does Belmont measure up?
Part 1 of our Recycling Q&A Recap from March 5th

Sustainable Belmont hosted a Q&A with Mary Beth Calnan and Wellington PTO Members to discuss recycling issues in town, including the great efforts underway at the elementary schools. Participants were invited to submit questions and share ideas during the evening and in advance of the discussion. Many questions prompted by the idea of improving recycling rates were asked along the lines of: how about single-stream recycling? weekly collection? pay as you throw? switch trash with recycling frequency? incentive programs? stronger [any] enforcement?

Addressing each in turn, Mary Beth Calnan and Doug Koplow (recent chair of the Solid Waste / Recycling Committee and Wellington parent) spoke to the issues. Single-stream is not the utopia we might expect it to be: 1) it costs a fair amount to invest in the particular toters, 2) at the time of Belmont’s contract negotiation it wasn’t cost effective – largely due to the newness of single-stream and the small size of Belmont relative to other markets – and 3) our divided streams, particularly the separated paper has a good value on the recycling market  which could be to our advantage in a new contract negotiation. Weekly collection, another idea, would also fall in the realm of increasing costs. Certainly it would increase recycling rates, but whether it would offset the additional costs of the additional weeks would be the subject of analysis for the next Solid Waste/Recycling Committee, when the contract comes up for renewal.recycling-99223_150

As for positive incentive programs, Calnan reported a program in Everett that went awry by rewarding based on weight, such that bowling balls and bricks were tossed regularly to increase the rewards. Punitive programs are not favored, i.e., Belmont has the authority to issue tickets to non-compliant residents as neighboring communities do, but chooses not to. More indirect methods, such as barrel limits or pay-as-you-throw, are less punitive and a possibility, but such programs would have to be vetted via our democratic process.

Still, how do we increase the rates of recycling and reduce our costs for waste removal. First, know that both waste and recycled materials have a removal cost in the form of a hauling charge. But, waste (the incineration-bound kind) has an ADDED cost – a tipping fee of $70 / ton. That sounds really cheap, but in 2013 Belmont disposed of roughly 7,500 tons of trash. That translates into $525,000 in tipping charges.

In the same year, we diverted roughly 2,200 tons of recycled materials. That translates into $154,000 of avoided tipping fees due to recycling. Our complete diversion rate is about 40% – that is yard waste, recycling and other materials that never hit the highway to incineration. If we consider 40% of our total waste as an avoided tipping cost, we saved about $271,600 in 2013. That sounds great, but where else does 40% equal success, especially when it’s estimated that 80-90% of all our waste can be recovered in the form of recycling or composting? We could double our $$.

Clearly, it is in our financial interest to increase recycling compliance and reduce consumption overall. Yet, whatever policy is in place, we are still left with education, education, and more education. That is the hard truth as material-recovery technology changes and product designs change. We are fortunate now to have Calan, who is helping to create continuity and educate everyone along the way. As she puts it, people are funny about their trash, but why wouldn’t you do it? Recycle – it just makes sense!

*Note – we have corrected the previous version to reflect the error in tons and subsequent calculations. Apologies for the misrepresentation – thank you Mary Beth for bringing it to our attention! 3/12/2014


Belmont Climate Action Plan

The Belmont Climate Action Plan – Finalized Version of 2009:

Read more discussion in the community on the Climate Action Plan:
Blogging Belmont
itizens Herald
The Belmont Patch