What’s Going On? – Recycling in Newburyport

Not so long ago, China was developing its recycling industry, and due to incredibly cheap labor and many other factors, sought and paid for much of the United State’s recycling material. The returning empty shipping containers that brought Chinese goods to our shores was a cheap way to get our recycling to them, and they were happy to have our material. However, their industry has developed – and it is thought that our recycling material has gotten less “pure” through single stream and general lack of attention from our citizenry. Thus, China has started refusing many of our material streams and has set “drastic” (but overdue!) limits on the amount of acceptable contamination in our loads.

This, and other factors, have brought trash disposal and responsible recycling to the forefront of many local governments, and Newburyport is no exception.

During the city’s recent requests for proposals for new hauling, collection, and disposal contracts, Newburyport saw a drastic increase in pricing. Partly in response to the factors above and in response to increasing fines for contaminated loads, Newburyport applied for and received a second grant from Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection to roll out an awareness and education program called Recycle Improve Quality – or Recycle IQ for short. This grant enables Newburyport to refresh our CityOfNewburyport.com/recycleright website, send out postcards with information, send out additional education personnel, and create a program to enable home visits to help households and families learn to recycle right – to be better stewards of the environment and Newburyport’s tax dollars.

 What can you do to help?

·        Recycle everything you can – and nothing that you shouldn’t. If you are unclear on what is what, visit the website or email us at the email address below with questions. Better yet, invite a Toward Zero Waste Newburyport representative for a home visit to help you and your whole family understand what goes where! Email us at the email below to schedule a home visit – and invite your neighbors! Responsible waste management saves everyone money!

·        Watch your postbox for (another) valuable postcard that helps determine what goes in recycling carts – and what doesn’t

·        Make sure your recycling is “clean” – rinse food containers!

·        Talk to your neighbors! Recycling right is good for Newburyport’s environment and budget!

·        Use a permanent marker to put your street number and street name on your recycling cart. This helps our cart checkers with their rounds to note households who might need more education.

If you and your neighbors can help Newburyport recycle right, you help us keep costs down and keep Newburyport beautiful! We are here to help!

 CityOfNewburyport.com/recycleright or email TowardZeroWasteNewburyport@outlook.com


Using the right fork: Tips for eating out responsibly

It’s finally summer—time to relax and kick back with a fun meal away from home. Whether you’re at a fancy restaurant or a laid-back lobster shack, there are all sorts of things you can do to make your dining experience a little greener.

Your first opportunity arrives almost the minute you sit down. Have you noticed how often a beverage is served with a straw already inserted in the glass? (And did you know that plastic straws are absolutely not recyclable? Millions of straws enter the waste stream in the U.S. every day. That just sucks.) When you’re ordering, consider asking your server for “no straw, please.” If you’re addicted to sipping, think about investing in a set of stainless steel drinking straws. Endlessly reusable, and trendy too!

When you peruse the menu, don’t let your eyes overrule your stomach, especially if it won’t be convenient to take leftovers home with you. Food left behind is not only a waste of your money; it’s also a major part of a restaurant’s waste stream. If you know that leftovers are likely, the ultimate green solution is to think ahead and bring your own container.

During your meal, be mindful of how many items on the table are single-use—intended to be used just once and then disposed of. Some, like paper plates, napkins, and empty condiment packets, go straight into the trash. Plastic utensils are trash too—they cannot be recycled because they’re made of the wrong kind of plastic. Okay, but at least the plastic cups are recyclable, right? Yes, and it’s a step in the right direction. But consider the resources and energy that went into producing that single-use cup, not to mention the additional energy required to recycle it. Single-use stinks. Three cheers for real plates, silverware, glasses, and cloth napkins!

Take-out meals come with their own set of pitfalls—and a strategy. All too often, your take-out bag will include all sorts of single-use items that you didn’t ask for and don’t need: Plastic utensils, salt, pepper, and condiments of all kinds, paper napkins, chopsticks, chemical-laden hand wipes—the list goes on. All are destined for the trash. Here’s another opportunity to go greener. Before you leave, take a minute to open your bag and politely return all that unwanted stuff. If enough of us did that, perhaps restaurants would get the message!

What other little habits might you cultivate towards eating and drinking more responsibly when you’re away from home? Paper coffee cups are not recyclable. Could you switch to a travel mug for your daily cuppa? How about keeping real silverware and a couple of cloth napkins in your desk drawer at work? Might you swap out a reusable water bottle for single-use plastic ones?

You might even take it to the limit by assembling your own kit for casual summer meals on the road: Inexpensive flatware, cloth napkins, reusable drinking glasses, and a container or two for leftovers. Keep the kit handy in the car and pull out what you need whenever the opportunity arises. You might raise a few eyebrows, but chances are you’ll get a whole lot of smiles—including one from Mother Nature herself. Bon appétit!


For  additional information on all aspects of recycling in Newburyport: http://www.cityofnewburyport.com (click on Recycling, Energy & Sustainability Department) or call the recycling office at 978-499-0413.

Nancy Roeder is a member of the Toward Zero Waste Newburyport Committee. Her family’s household trash averages less than one pound a week.



Follow this thread: Textile recycling

Just in time for back to school, here’s a quick recycling quiz: What percentage of your unwanted clothing and household textiles can be disposed of responsibly (i.e., not in the trash), right here in Newburyport? Answer: 95%! Honestly.

The first thing to remember about textile recycling is that textiles never, ever go in your curbside recycling bin. Newburyport has plenty of other resources for recycling just about every textile in your house, no matter what condition it’s in. From designer duds to dishcloths, here’s how to recycle it all:

If you’ve got high fashion or designer clothing or shoes in excellent condition, consider consigning them at a resale shop. (You might make a few dollars, too!) Consignment shops aren’t limited to women’s clothing alone. Some have kids’ departments, and at least one area store carries only menswear. If you’ve never browsed in a resale store, check it out—you might be pleasantly surprised at the quality you find. And there’s no more environmentally responsible way to shop!

If your items are more everyday, dated, or showing wear (but still presentable), donate them. Larger charities will even come to your house and pick up your donation. If you prefer to stay local, there are plenty of charitable thrift shops where you can drop your items off. Avoid donating clothing or shoes that are in need of repair. Charitable organizations are often short-handed, and don’t have the time or facilities to mend damaged items.

Household textiles (especially sheets, towels, and blankets) in good condition can also be donated, either to larger charities or to local organizations that provide overnight shelter to those in need. Threadbare sheets and towels may be donated to animal shelters.

What about unusable textiles? Every household has a stash of textiles that are beyond use or repair, from damaged clothing and single socks to stained tablecloths and ripped backpacks.  There’s a recycling solution for all those, too. The yellow Planet Aid bins around town and the Ecosmith bins in the parking lots of the Nock and Bresnahan schools all accept clothing, footwear, and household textiles of ALL kinds, in ANY condition. The only requirement is that donations be clean, dry, and mold-free. Visit www.ecosmithrecyclers.com and click on “Materials” for a sample list of acceptable items.

Bed pillows and carpet and are just about the only textiles that can’t be recycled in an Ecosmith or Planet Aid bin. There’s a workaround for bed pillows, though: Remove the stuffing and recycle the fabric cover. The stuffing, sadly, must be trashed. Carpet must also be disposed of in curbside trash, and requires a bulk trash sticker (available for $5 at the Health Department in City Hall).

One last thought: Newburyport offers many choices for recycling textiles. When decluttering yours, consider using the option that will keep them in useful circulation the longest (also known as the highest or best purpose). If a garment is stylish, resell it. If it’s still usable and presentable, donate it. Reserve the Ecosmith and Planet Aid bins for your damaged or shabby items that have outlived their original usefulness.

Recycling 95% of unwanted household textiles, and to their highest purpose? Now, that’s a real rags to riches story!


For  additional information on all aspects of recycling in Newburyport: http://www.cityofnewburyport.com (click on Recycling, Energy & Sustainability Department) or call the recycling office at 978-499-0413.

Nancy Roeder is a member of the Toward Zero Waste Newburyport Committee. Her family’s household trash averages less than one pound a week.

[LH1]If you put: “Boilerplate” sometimes they print that word along with the description.

Textile Recycling: What’s your waste size?

It’s almost September – time for back-to-school clothes shopping for the students and maybe a little something for the rest of us, too.

Clothes shopping isn’t what it used to be. Today’s clothing lines are increasingly dominated by “fast fashion” – quickly-changing styles that are rapidly and cheaply mass-produced. More styles mean more purchases – and more waste. From an ecological point of view, it’s a nightmare. Resist the trend, and make your own fashion statement by shopping in an eco-friendly way. Learn to recognize fast fashion, and avoid it. Invest in fewer but higher-quality items that will stand the test of time. And there’s no rule that all your clothing has to be brand new. Indulge your curiosity and explore our local consignment, vintage, and secondhand shops.

Once you’re home from shopping, do you need to get rid of some of your old clothes to make room for the new ones? If your garments are still in good shape, keep them in circulation by selling them at a consignment store or donating them to a charitable organization or thrift shop. As cold weather approaches, local shelters appreciate donations of warm winter outerwear and bedding. Keep them in mind as you’re clearing out your closets.

Even if a garment is no longer wearable because it’s stained, ripped, or has a broken zipper or stretched-out elastic, it can often find a second life in the hands of a local artisan. Fabrics in interesting prints, or rich or unusual textures (like silk, corduroy, velvet, lace) are always in demand. List your offerings on NextDoor, Freecycle, or Facebook’s Newburyport Curb Alert and make a crafter happy.

When your worn-out textiles really are hanging by a thread, don’t toss them! Dispose of them responsibly in one of the Ecosmith Recycling bins located in the Nock and Bresnahan school parking lots. In addition to clothing, you can drop off footwear of any kind (pairs only), accessories like belts and backpacks, and all manner of household linens (everything from sheets and towels to curtains, throw pillows, and throw rugs). Torn or stained items and fabric scraps are fine, as long as they are clean and, most importantly, dry. (One damp item can spread mildew throughout an entire bag of textiles, permanently rendering them all useless.) Visit Ecosmith’s website at www.ecosmithrecyclers.com for the impressive list of everything that’s accepted. Ecosmith is a locally owned business and makes a donation to Newburyport schools for every pound of textiles they collect.

With Newburyport’s rich recycling resources, there’s no reason to ever toss a textile in the trash. In the recycling world, it’s a rags to riches story!


For additional information on all aspects of recycling in Newburyport: http://www.cityofnewburyport.com (click on Recycling, Energy & Sustainability Department) or call the recycling office at 978-499-0413.

Nancy Roeder is a member of the Toward Zero Waste Newburyport Committee. Her family’s household trash averages less than one pound a week.

Save water – Don’t be a drip!

By Nancy Roeder

Water is both our most abundant and most precious natural resource. All life is dependent on it. We owe it to Mother Nature to use and enjoy her gift as mindfully and responsibly as we can.

Conserving water indoors is as easy as tweaking a few everyday routines. Do you leave the water running when you’re brushing your teeth or washing your hands? Do you linger in the shower long after the suds are gone? It might feel inconvenient at first, but after a couple of weeks, shutting off the faucet promptly becomes second nature.

You may be wasting water in your bathroom(s) and not even know it. Is your toilet a victim of the “phantom flush?” That means wasted water! Test your toilet tank for leaks by adding a bit of food coloring. If color appears in the bowl without your having flushed, you have a leak to be repaired.

Change up some kitchen habits, too. Wait until your dishwasher is full before running it. If you wash by hand, use a sink or basin of clean water, rather than running water, to rinse. Use a basin to wash veggies as well. These changes alone can save tens of gallons every day.

There’s another huge potential water-waster in your kitchen. The garbage disposal is both a wonderful convenience and an environmental triple-threat: It uses energy, water, and adds stress to our sewer system. Don’t put anything down the disposal if it can go into the trash – or better yet, the compost – instead.

Gardening season is upon us – finally!! – and with it, an average 20-50% increase in Newburyport household water usage. A disproportionate percentage of outdoor water use goes to maintaining lush, green lawns in summer. If you really want to make a difference in your own ecological impact, buck tradition and let your lawn follow its natural cycle of dormancy during the dry months. New green growth will reappear in the fall, when the rains return.

Revise your watering routine to care for your trees and shrubs first. They are the backbones of your garden, and mature plants are irreplaceable. Give regular attention to your vegetable garden and new plantings. Established perennials should come next, with short-lived annuals last in line.

Water early in the day, and water deep. Early morning watering minimizes evaporation and gets moisture to your plants before the heat of the day. Long, deep watering once or twice a week (as opposed to a light daily sprinkle) encourages strong, extensive root systems. Soaker hoses are much more efficient than sprinklers. They’re inexpensive, easy to install, and deliver water exactly where you want it to go.

And finally, make the most of every raindrop by “harvesting” the rainwater that runs off your roof. A rain barrel situated beneath a downspout catches and stores the otherwise wasted runoff for later use. By special arrangement, Newburyport residents can purchase a high-quality barrel from The Great American Rain Barrel Company for a discounted price of $79 if ordered by June 22. Details: http://www.greatamericanrainbarrel.com; look under “Community Programs.”

Water is our most precious resource. Use and enjoy it responsibly – don’t let it go down the drain!

For additional information on all aspects of recycling in Newburyport: http://www.cityofnewburyport.com (click on Recycling, Energy & Sustainability Department) or call the recycling office at 978-499-0413.

Nancy Roeder is a member of the Toward Zero Waste Newburyport Committee. Her family’s household trash averages less than one pound a week.



Food for thought

By Nancy Roeder

How much food does your household waste? Careful – it’s a trick question.

If you compost, either at home or through Black Earth Haulers, you might believe that you waste no food at all. But those stale crackers you tossed are indeed wasted, even if they went into a compost heap. And how about the oatmeal you zapped away in the garbage disposal? That counts, too. If you don’t compost and your food waste (aka organic waste) goes into the trash, consider its journey. First it is trucked to North Andover, burning fossil fuels all the way. Then it is incinerated, adding to both air and ground pollution. What an ironic ending for “organic” waste.

Organic waste makes up over 50% of Newburyport’s household trash; it amounts to well over 2,000 tons per year. It doesn’t have to be this way! Unlike many of our environmental issues, this one is directly controllable by you and me. Sure, everyone wastes some food – after all, we’re only human. But each of us can take steps to minimize the food we waste. Each of us can make an impact.

All you need to do is pay attention during your food-related activities. Replace your old habits with a new awareness. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

Revise your grocery list. If you notice a consistency in the type of food you’ve been throwing away, try buying less of it. Perhaps your family’s true eating habits are different than those you’ve been shopping for.

Be more mindful when you’re dining out. Over-ordering means either leaving your food waste for the restaurant to deal with, or bringing home leftovers that often go uneaten anyway.

Run a tighter ship in the kitchen. Get more creative with leftovers. Use airtight containers to keep foods from going stale. Resolve to manage the contents of your refrigerator and freezer better.

Be mindful when using your garbage disposal. It’s a wonderful convenience – but remember that food down the disposal is the same as food in the trash (not to mention the burden it adds to our sewer system).

Pass along pantry items that are overstocked or that you’ll never use. Unexpired canned and packaged goods are always welcomed in charitable food donation boxes. Opened items (like a box of tea bags, or a condiment or spice) can be offered online via Freecycle or Nextdoor Newburyport.

Share your celebrations. The season for wedding receptions and graduation parties is fast approaching. Ask your caterer about options for donating your excess edibles to organizations that serve the less fortunate. It’s a beautiful way to pay it forward.

Start composting, if you’re not already. Newburyport’s recycling office sells composters at a discount. It’s deeply satisfying to divert your organics out of the trash stream and back to nature, where they belong.

Let this beautiful spring season remind all of us that Mother Earth is the source of all the food we eat. There’s no better way to honor her generosity than to partake of her bounty mindfully, and to leave behind as little waste (and as much compost) as we can.

It’s food for thought.

For additional information on all aspects of recycling in Newburyport: http://www.cityofnewburyport.com (click on Recycling, Energy & Sustainability Department) or call the recycling office at 978-499-0413.

Nancy Roeder is a member of the Toward Zero Waste Newburyport Committee. Her family’s household trash averages less than one pound a week.

Spring cleaning: Basement – or black hole?

By Nancy Roeder

Garages, sheds, and basements are tricksters. They masquerade as benevolent storage areas, but if you’re not vigilant, they can quickly morph into black holes full of things you don’t want, don’t use, or would rather forget about. Spring is the perfect time to reclaim your turf. Here’s a field guide to common black-hole clutter and how to responsibly re-home or recycle just about all of it:

Non-functioning appliances, power tools, and outdoor maintenance equipment: If they’re fixable (just not by you), list them with one of our many local online recycling communities (Yahoo Freecycle Newburyport, Nextdoor Newburyport, Newburyport Curb Alert on Facebook) with an honest description of their condition. If an item is broken beyond repair, don’t trash it! Just about anything with a cord and/or made of metal can be recycled at the Recycling Center on Crow Lane on the first Saturday morning of every month (aka “First Saturdays”).

Wood and other building materials: Wood can’t be recycled, but there’s a good chance that someone else might be able to use your leftover plywood, stray two-by-fours, shelving, cinder blocks, etc. The same is true for leftover landscaping materials – bricks, pavers, granite blocks and curbing, even large rocks that could be used in a stone fence. Offer them online through Freecycle or Curb Alert and let them complete someone else’s project.

Automotive detritus: Tires, antifreeze, and motor oil are accepted at First Saturdays. Bring old gas, batteries, brake and transmission fluids (and more) to Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) Day on May 6. (See below for details.)

Garden and lawn supplies: Drop off your overflow at the “Free” area at the yard waste facility on Crow Lane. Everything from tools and flowerpots to dug-up plants and shrubs are welcome. Bring any garden chemicals or insecticides to HHW on May 6 for safe disposal. Unfortunately, garden hoses cannot be recycled. If yours has sprung a non-repairable leak, trash it.

Unused sports equipment: If it’s gathering dust and you honestly don’t plan to use it, consider passing it along to someone who will. Donate it or list it online. Bicycles in any condition can be brought to First Saturdays, where they will be repaired for charitable donation or recycled responsibly.

Paint: Somehow, cans of paint seem to multiply in basements and garages. If they’re over half full, try offering them online before tossing them. (A color that didn’t work for you might be perfect for someone else.) Latex paint only can be thrown out with regular trash. Oil-based (aka alkyd) paints and varnishes can be disposed of at HHW on May 6.

Miscellaneous chemicals, solvents, harsh cleansers, potentially toxic or combustible liquids and aerosol sprays: Such products should never be put in the trash. Box up your toxic items and bring them to HHW on May 6.

Newburyport’s Household Hazardous Waste Collection day is May 6 from 8 a.m. until noon at the Recycling Center on Crow Lane. The Recycling Department provides a complete list of eligible items and disposal fees at http://www.cityofnewburyport.com. A paper-shredding service will be on site as well. One file box per household may be shredded for free; additional boxes cost $5 each.

For additional information on all aspects of recycling in Newburyport: http://www.cityofnewburyport.com (click on Recycling, Energy & Sustainability Department) or call the recycling office at 978-499-0413.

Nancy Roeder is a member of the Toward Zero Waste Newburyport Committee. Her family’s household trash averages less than one pound a week.

A fresh take on spring cleaning

By Nancy Roeder

Spring is here – and, with it, the urge to finally clear out all that clutter that’s been driving you crazy all winter (and maybe even longer).

How satisfying would it be to accomplish your spring cleaning without adding any extra burden to Newburyport’s trash stream? Our city has so many creative resources for responsible recycling that even your most bedraggled rejects might never make it to the trash bag.

Let’s get started! From the top:

Items in good shape are always in demand, and might even earn you some cash. For fashion-forward clothing, consider consignment and resale shops. Online, the Facebook group “NBPT Virtual Yard Sale: Sell, Trade, Borrow, Give” is popular for both selling and giving away household goods and furniture. In addition, the website “Nextdoor Newburyport” offers free classified listings. Craigslist.com reaches a much wider audience.

If you’d prefer to donate, consider keeping it local at one of the area’s many charitable organizations or thrift shops. National organizations like Salvation Army, Goodwill, and Big Brothers Big Sisters offer periodic pick-ups. Note: Donating furniture can be tricky, as many charities will only accept items in near-perfect condition. If yours misses the mark, try an online listing and/or put it out on the curb (see below).

What about your less-than-perfect or more unusual items that still have plenty of useful life left (just preferably at someone else’s house)? Freecycle Newburyport is a long-established online community where you can list all your unwanted items with an excellent chance that a fellow member will gladly take them off your hands. You can even list items that are partially used or in need of minor repair. (Remember that one person’s trash is another person’s treasure!) For Freecycle signup: https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/FreecycleNewburyport/info .

Putting unwanted items out on the curb with a large “free” sign is a time-honored tradition in Newburyport. For extra emphasis, you can list your offering on Facebook’s “Newburyport Curb Alert” site. In any case, be respectful of your neighborhood, and limit your curb time to 24 hours.

So far, so good! What’s left? Only those dilapidated items that truly have reached the end of their useful lives. But even your rusty charcoal grill and antiquated computer equipment don’t belong in the trash bin. On the first Saturday of every month, the Newburyport Recycling Center on Crow Lane will take items like these off your hands and recycle them for you. Appliances of all sizes, all electronics, and pretty much anything made of metal are just a small sampling of the things you can recycle here. For a complete list of eligible items, visit the “Crow Lane Recycling Center” page on the City of Newburyport’s web site, http://www.cityofnewburyport.com. You will be amazed! Take a moment to check out this page whenever you’re tempted to throw a questionable item into the trash. Then make Mother Nature smile by bringing it to the Recycling Center instead!

Next month we’ll continue our spring-cleaning theme with specific tips on responsibly clearing out your garage, basement, and shed. An early reminder: Household Hazardous Waste Day and spring paper-shredding service are coming up on May 6 at the Crow Lane Recycling Center. Hope to see you there!

Beyond the Bin: A look at curbside ‘no-nos’

By Nancy Roeder

Feb 14, 2017

When it comes to your curbside bin, are you a victim of “wishful recycling”? You know the feeling — when you just know that something is recyclable, or anyway, it should be. So you toss those ripped blue jeans in your curbside bin, cross your fingers, and hope for the best.

Well, the good news is that you’re partially right. Many things are recyclable — but not in your curbside bin. Newburyport has an amazing array of resources for recycling items that don’t belong curbside. Two of the best are introduced below.

Admittedly, recycling “beyond the bin” requires a bit of extra commitment and the occasional local errand on your part. But knowing that you’ve contributed toward a better environment, even in a small way, is rewarding.

Here’s a list of the top six things to never put in your curbside recycling bin — and how to dispose of them responsibly instead:

Plastic bags: No! No! These never go into curbside recycling. Not even those with a chasing arrow recycling number, and not even to hold recycling overflow. If your recyclables overflow your curbside bin, put them in another recyclable container: A cardboard box, paper shopping bag, or even a paper leaf bag (holds a lot!) — but not a plastic bag. Instead, recycle plastic bags in designated bins at the grocery.

Styrofoam: CANNOT be recycled curbside, even if it has a recycling number. All colored and food-packaging Styrofoam goes into the trash. The good news: White Styrofoam packing pieces and packing peanuts of all colors can be dropped off on the first Saturday of every month at the Recycling Center on Crow Lane. (Lots more about “first Saturdays” in next month’s column.)

Glass: ONLY jars and bottles (both clear and colored) are acceptable in curbside recycling. ALL other glass items (mirrors, window glass, Pyrex, crystal) go in the trash. Related good news: Broken ceramic and pottery dishware is accepted at first Saturdays.

Metal: ONLY food cans, aluminum foil, and disposable foil pans are acceptable curbside. Good news, though: Scrap metal and just about all other metal items, from pots and pans to old garden tools, can be recycled at first Saturdays.

Textiles: NOT in curbside recycling, and no need to trash. The very best options for discarding non-wearable textiles are the Ecosmith bins at the Nock and Bresnahan schools. You can drop off clothing, shoes (even singles) and household textiles in any condition (torn or stained is OK, but they must be dry). Newburyport schools receive a donation for every ton of textiles collected — a win-win situation all around.

Food and snack wrappers, bags, and packaging: They’re not paper and they’re not plastic, so they belong in the trash, not in curbside recycling. The best option is to avoid buying over-packaged items whenever you can. Less packaging usually means less processed food (and healthier eating, too).

Hopefully this list of curbside “no-nos” has also inspired you to try out some new recycling ideas. First Saturdays and textile recycling at the schools are just a couple of Newburyport’s responsible recycling options that go beyond the standard curbside bin. Next month: Beyond recycling — Even more ways to shrink your ecological footprint.

Nancy Roeder is a member of the Toward Zero Waste Newburyport Committee. Her household trash averages less than 2 pounds a week.

For additional information on all aspects of recycling in Newburyport: www.cityofnewburyport.com (click on Recycling, Energy & Sustainability Department) or call the recycling office at 978-499-0413.

Beyond the Bin: New monthly Newburyport recycling column

By Nancy Roeder

Jan 23, 2017

Welcome to the first of a monthly series of practical tips for recycling right and living light in Newburyport.

First, some trash talk: In an average week, Newburyport households produce about 80 tons of garbage. That’s about 21 pounds of trash a week, or more than half a ton per year, for each household. 

Organic (i.e., food) waste is far and away the largest (and heaviest) component of our household trash. Curbside recyclables average 10 pounds weekly (537 pounds annually) per household. 

Stop and think a minute. Where does your family’s output weigh in?

Getting rid of all this stuff doesn’t come cheap. Newburyport currently spends more than $1 million each year to have our discards taken away, and the costs trend ever higher. In addition to pickup and hauling fees, there is a stiff disposal (“tipping”) fee per ton to dump our garbage. In contrast, the city has found an established market for selling our bulk curbside recyclables. Although the going rate has fluctuated over the years, this market demand guarantees that Newburyport’s recyclables will always cost considerably less to dispose of than its trash.

That’s why it’s important to recycle right. Every item you toss into the trash that could have been recycled costs the city extra money — which is reflected in our taxes. But that doesn’t mean you should automatically put everything into your curbside recycling bin, either. Newburyport’s recycling company requires “clean” (aka “uncontaminated”) loads that include only true curbside recyclables, and it conducts spot checks on its recycling trucks. A load with too many non-curbside recyclable items might be rejected, which is messy, expensive, and best avoided.

In the long run, there really is no “out” when you throw out the trash. Our garbage bags are not bottomless. Every item has a disposal cost — financial, social, and environmental. Newburyport’s trash is burned in an incinerator in North Andover, which contributes to air and ground pollution. Other communities use landfills or pay to have their refuse shipped elsewhere. When these facilities wear out or are filled up, taking out the trash will become even more problematic.

So what can we do about it? More than you might think! 

It begins with your own trash bag. An unwanted item that can’t be recycled in your curbside bin doesn’t have to be automatically dumped in the trash barrel. In future columns, we’ll introduce recycling “beyond the bin,” Newburyport’s amazing array of resources for responsibly disposing of just about anything you can think of. We’ll also answer those nagging questions about what does and doesn’t belong in curbside recycling, and share inspirational ideas for living more lightly on our Earth and in our beautiful city. 

Next month: The top 10 things to NEVER put in your recycling bin (and what to do with them instead).

Nancy Roeder is a member of the Toward Zero Waste Newburyport Committee. Her household trash averages less than 2 pounds a week.

For additional information on all aspects of recycling in Newburyport: www.cityofnewburyport.com (click on Recycling, Energy & Sustainability Department) or call the recycling office at 978-499-0413.