BOSTON – Aiming to strengthen recycling programs across Massachusetts and increase public awareness, the Baker-Polito Administration today awarded more than $2.6 million in recycling grants to 247 Massachusetts cities, towns, and solid waste districts, and unveiled a new “Recycle Smart” initiative and web site to emphasize the importance of putting only those materials that processing plants are equipped to handle in recycling bins.
“Massachusetts cities and towns are important partners in our Administration’s effort to promote and increase recycling opportunities across the Commonwealth,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “The funding awarded through the Sustainable Materials Recovery Program, and the launch of a recycling awareness initiative will both support local recycling solutions and continue Massachusetts’ long-standing commitment to recycling and environmental protection.”
The funding, awarded under the Sustainable Materials Recovery Program (SMRP) Recycling Dividends Program (RDP), recognizes communities for implementing policies and programs that reduce waste and maximize reuse and recycling. To date, 194 towns and cities are receiving $2.56 million in total payments statewide, and individual awards range from $2,800 to $97,500 and help municipalities pay for new recycling bins or carts, public education and outreach, collection of difficult-to-recycle items, and recycling in municipal buildings, schools and public spaces.
Framingham and Natick each received $28,000. The Town of Ashland received $8,800.
Additionally, 53 municipalities are being awarded a total of $51,000 for SMRP Small-Scale Initiatives Grants. These population-based awards range from $500 to $2,000 each and help communities make modest but critical investments in existing recycling programs or new, low-cost initiatives.
“Recycling the right materials while reducing how much we throw away is a priority for the Commonwealth as we update our solid waste master plan for the next decade,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Matthew Beaton. “The Sustainable Materials Recovery Program grants will help communities build stronger recycling programs, encourage residents to keep trash out of recycling bins, and ultimately reduce waste management costs.”
Recognizing the importance of educating residents about the importance of recycling and which materials belong in their recycling bins and which do not, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP), in partnership with materials recovery facilities (MRFs) across the state, developed the “Recycle Smart” program to inform consumers about their important role in making recycling work better. With a goal to eliminate contamination, reduce costs for cities and towns, maximize the ability to process recyclable materials, and reduce worker injury, the guide and web portal that lists four categories of materials that every Massachusetts community with curbside collection or a drop-off location accepts: mixed paper and cardboard; food and beverage cans; glass bottles and jars; and plastic bottles, jars, jugs and tubs.
Other materials that MRFs are not designed to handle – like plastic shopping bags, clothing, food waste, or household trash – should be recycled at retail stores, donated to charity, composted, or thrown away. Food trash and moisture can ruin otherwise good recyclables, leaving MRF personnel no choice but to treat these loads as trash. Materials such as shopping bags, clothes and old garden hoses can get caught up in the MRF’s machinery, causing the machines to stop working and putting workers at risk of injury.
“We look forward to continuing our work with municipalities, private haulers, recycling processors, and environmental advocates to help residents do their part to recycle smart and communities to do so more affordably,” said MassDEP Commissioner Martin Suuberg.
“These funds will provide critically needed resources to those communities that are taking concrete steps to improve our environment, and prepare for the future,” said Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). “I’m proud of the communities throughout the Commonwealth that are reducing waste and maximizing recycling, and grateful that they will be receiving these payments.”
“Education about recycling is always important, but now it’s more critical than ever because of the harm that can be done by placing the wrong things in the recycling stream,” said State Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester). “These grants will go a long way to fueling important communication at the local level to prevent that from happening.”
“Recycling plays a critical role in helping cities and towns manage their waste disposal, while also providing many important environmental benefits,” said House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading).“The grants announced today are a welcome investment for communities across Massachusetts that are looking to reduce waste by promoting expanded participation in their local recycling programs.”
“We know that Massachusetts residents are committed to recycling, but many don’t realize that when they throw items that are not accepted for recycling in their recycling bins and simply hope that that they get recycled, they are causing more harm than good,” said Edward Hsieh, executive director of MassRecycle, which has partnered with MassDEP on this effort.“MassRecycle thanks the Baker-Polito Administration and MassDEP for their leadership on educating the public, providing resources, and creating a greener Massachusetts for everyone.”
The recent closure of a large glass bottling manufacturer in Milford has had a significant impact on regional outlets for glass collected through most municipal recycling programs.
To address this gap, MassDEP is working directly with cities and towns through its Recycling IQ Kit program and several municipal funding initiatives. The Recycling IQ Kit program helps municipalities educate residents on how to better recycle in order to remove contaminants from the recycling stream. The agency also has partnered with MRFs to identify alternative markets for the materials they process, and to evaluate new sorting technologies for eliminating non-recyclables. The cleaner the materials they produce are, the less it will cost to process them and the higher their resale values will be.