The Town of Amherst is implementing a number of waste reduction initiatives. Mimi Kaplan, the Waste Reduction Enforcement Coordinator at the DPW, is funded by a grant from Mass DEP and has been working with haulers, town residents, property owners and managers, tenants, and schools to improve recycling and reduce the amount of trash we dispose of. Here are projects we are working on and some accomplishments so far:
For two months in fall 2017, Mimi collected trash and recycling disposal data in Amherst in order to obtain a recycling rate for the town. She input data from 538 properties on three different routes- North Amherst, Center of Amherst, and South Amherst. The routes and number were chosen to provide an accurate sample. For each property, she assessed the volume of trash and the volume of recycling (in gallons), and computed the recycling rate (volume of recycling/total volume of trash+recycling). She converted these figures into tonnage using EPA conversion data, and came up with an average recycling rate for the town: 32%. This is fairly consistent with the national average of 34%, and also was very consistent with the recycling rate given by the three primary haulers in Amherst- Amherst Trucking (33%), Duseau Trucking (34%), and Alternative Recycling (30%). This means that on average, Amherst residents are recycling almost a third of their total waste stream. While this recycling rate is in line with the national average, it certainly could be better!
This data did not include the large multi-family residences, i.e. the apartment complexes. According to hauler data from Republic Services and Waste Management, the recycling rate at these properties is about 11%, much lower than for single family residences and small multi-family residences.
In fall 2017, we sent out letters to every property owner that explained recycling guidelines,and also explained our efforts to improve recycling, including through inspections and reminders. As many residents know, recycling facilities and haulers have been trying to reduce the amount of "contamination" (i.e. non-recyclable materials) in the recycling. Thus certain items that might have been accepted previously (but were never actually recycled) such as plastic bags and plastic cups, are now not allowed in curbside containers. We have been helping to educate about these rules, and we are always available to answer questions.
Mimi writes a bi-monthly column in the Daily Hampshire Gazette discussing and explaining various aspects of waste reduction. She is also writing a blog (you can link to it at the bottom of this page), that will have new posts about waste reduction every week.
Outreach to schools:
Mimi worked with the student environmental group at Amherst Regional Middle School to set up container recycling at the school, including getting them bins and informational signs. She plans to do more outreach with the elementary schools in the 2018-2019 school year.
Collaboration with haulers:
The majority of Amherst residents contract with private haulers for curbside pickup of trash and recycling, so collaboration with the haulers to improve recycling rate and quality is important. Some of the ways we have worked together includes educating residents about what should and should not be recycled, enforcing town recycling regulations, putting informational stickers on trash and recycling containers, and sharing data.
Collaboration with UMass:
We have been collaborating with UMass in many ways to improve recycling and waste reduction. Some highlights:
In accordance with the DEP grant, Mimi conducts regular inspections of trash and recycling receptacles, along with the private haulers. Trash receptacles that obviously contain large amounts of recycling, and recycling receptacles that contain large amounts of non-recyclable items, are tagged so that owners/tenants are alerted to the problems. If these violations of the regulations persist, then owners may be fined. The goal is to improve recycling habits and adherence to town regulations before any issuance of fines.