The Lynn DPW is launching the Recycling IQ Kit program Monday that will run through the end of September. The goal of the program is to raise the “Recycling IQ” of residents participating in the curbside trash and recycling program.
The Recycling IQ Kit program is funded through a grant from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP), which also provides technical assistance. Lynn, along with six other communities, received funding and technical assistance to run the program, which was piloted last year in Lowell and West Springfield with good results.
The Recycling IQ Kit combines an aggressive campaign of education and direct feedback curbside. Included in the education efforts are a direct mail piece to all residents, newspaper ads, social media ads, as well messaging on billboards, banners, store signs and sandwich boards that will be placed around the city. Using grant funds, a team of summer workers will be hired from June through the end of September to implement the curbside feedback program that will target more than 5,000 households on every recycling collection route in the city.
Julia Greene, Lynn’s recycling coordinator, said workers will be lifting the lids of more than 5,000 recycling carts daily on both green and blue recycling weeks as part of the program.
“If we find a large amount of plastic bags, trash or other things that don’t belong in the recycling cart, we will be tagging those carts with an ‘Oops’ tag, which will signal to Waste Management to not pick up the carts,” Greene said.
Residents whose carts get tagged will need to dispose of the ineligible material and put the carts out on the next recycling pick-up day.
“We will be checking those same carts eight times over a 16-week period, allowing enough time for the behavior modification of recycling right to take effect,” Green said, adding that in Lowell and West Springfield, the total contamination dropped by 30 percent on the targeted routes.
“Contamination” is a word used to describe items not belonging in the recycling cart. Plastic bags are the biggest problem, causing a halt in operations at recycling processing plants. Other ineligible items include food waste, Styrofoam and construction debris. These items can contaminate an entire load, resulting in needing to trash the load, as well as endangering workers on the processing line. These problems can result in higher processing costs for the city and an increase in solid waste tonnage.
Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy said the Waste Management automated trash and recycling program has saved the city thousands of dollars since it was implemented in December 2014.
Before the program was implemented, Lynn had virtually unlimited trash pickup, which gave no incentive for residents to recycle, resulting in one of the lowest recycling rates in the state at just under eight percent. The first year of the program saw the recycling rate increase to 21 percent, and a 25-percent decrease in solid waste. The data for 2016 show continued improvement, although the numbers are not as dramatic.
Although the tonnage for recycling is up, and the recycling rate increased to 22 percent, there is a good amount of contamination, especially with plastic bags. Residents are encouraged to bring clean plastic bags back to grocery stores.
The challenge in the coming year is to get more households to recycle, and to recycle correctly.
“If we can do that,” said Kennedy, “our solid waste numbers will go down, recycling will go up, and we will continue to save money.”