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City Residents Urged To Be More Careful About Recycling

Recycling containers

The  city of Springfield, which pioneered single-stream recycling in Massachusetts, has launched an education and enforcement campaign in an effort to keep recycling rates up and trash disposal costs down.

The Springfield Department of Public Works said an unacceptable amount of trash and other prohibited items have been turning up lately in the recycling containers people put out for curbside pick-up. Some contamination of the recyclables is allowed, but if it exceeds ten percent the city faces fines, according to Springfield’s recycling coordinator Greg Superneau.

" It was trending in the wrong direction."

Springfield uses a single-stream recycling program where residents put glass, metal, plastics and paper into a single large blue container collected every other week.  Lately a number of prohibited items have been found in the recycling containers including plastic toys, window blinds and bubble wrap.

" They may technically be recyclable, but are not within the system we operate."

Superneau said a list of the so-called “dirty dozen” items that are not allowed in the city’s recycling program is advertised on flyers being distributed at libraries and community centers and posted on the city’s website.

The DPW has also begun compliance checks. People found to have put prohibited items in recycling bins will receive two warnings before a $50 fine is levied.

" I would be happy if we issued no fines. But, we will issue fines to repeat violators if that's what it takes," said Superneau.

Springfield began single-stream recycling in 2008 with a pilot program in one neighborhood. The following year Mayor Domenic Sarno announced a city-wide rollout.

" As the city of Springfield continues to go green this is not only good for the environment, but good for the city's bottom line."

Recycling saves Springfield an estimated $250,000 in annual trash disposal costs.  The city recycles about 8,500 tons of solid waste a year – double the rate before the single-stream program.

Ninety-seven municipalities in Massachusetts – encompassing about half the state’s population -- have single-stream recycling programs, according to the state Department of Environmental Protection.         

DEP’s municipal recycling branch chief Brooke Nash applauds Springfield’s efforts  to sustain a strong single-stream recycling program.

" I think there is probably a little more of a temptation with single-stream recycling for people to just throw it all in there and figure it'll get recycled. Education is critical and it has to be on-going."

Just under 40 percent of all municipal solid waste in Massachusetts is recycled. The national recycling rate in 2012 was 34.5 percent, according to the EPA.

Paul Tuthill is WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief. He’s been covering news, everything from politics and government corruption to natural disasters and the arts, in western Massachusetts since 2007. Before joining WAMC, Paul was a reporter and anchor at WRKO in Boston. He was news director for more than a decade at WTAG in Worcester. Paul has won more than two dozen Associated Press Broadcast Awards. He won an Edward R. Murrow award for reporting on veterans’ healthcare for WAMC in 2011. Born and raised in western New York, Paul did his first radio reporting while he was a student at the University of Rochester.
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