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To Encourage More Recycling, Springfield May Reduce Trash Barrel Size


     With landfill space become scarcer in Massachusetts, municipalities are looking for ways to reduce the tons of trash carted off to the dumps.

    The city of Springfield is considering changes to its residential trash collection program including reducing the size of the trash barrels in an effort to force more recycling.

    Public Works Director Chris Cignoli said the city is paying $70 per ton to dump the trash it collects, while recyclables are disposed of at no cost.

    "So anything we can switch over is going to save the city a lot of money," said Cignoli.

    In addition to saving money, Springfield is under an environmental deadline.

    Four years ago, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection ordered the city to reduce the trash trucked off to the landfill 30 percent by 2020.

    Cignoli said the city has moved toward that goal by introducing a single-stream recycling program and stopping trash pickups at residential buildings with more than four apartments.

    " We still have a ways to go to get to that reduction, so we can't sit back and a lot of communities are going to this program now with the smaller barrels," said Cignoli.

    A plan is being developed that could replace the 95-gallon city-owned trash barrels people must use now to have their household trash collected at the curbside with 65-gallon barrels.  Recycling collections would be done weekly, rather than the current every-other-week schedule.

   Cignoli said he is still working to iron out final details and hopes to bring a plan to the city council in the fall so that the new program can be tried out in a few diverse neighborhoods before winter.

    " I want to get it done as quickly as I can so we can get this program in place with the DEP," said Cignoli.

    City Councilor Kateri Walsh, chair of the Maintenance and Development Committee, which oversees DPW, said she likes the plan.

     " I think it is an excellent idea," said Walsh.  " I think people would welcome being able to put out their recycling every week. I think it would be a win-win that helps the city and the residents and maybe cuts down on a little illegal dumping."

     But City Councilor Melvin Edwards, who also heads the Springfield chapter of Keep America Beautiful, said he has some concerns.

     "My concern is the resident on the street who doesn't follow the rules and overfills the barrel and then the city refuses to take it because they are in violation, said Edwards. "So it is the neighbors who are the ones who suffer."

     City residents pay a $90 annual fee for weekly trash collections and the recycling program.

     In Chicopee, where the municipal landfill is expected to close next year, a new trash collection system launched in May that was aimed at increasing recycling.

     Each household was given a 35-gallon trash barrel that the city collects weekly, free of charge. Excess trash must be put in specially-marked bags that cost $1.20 for a 15-gallon bag and $2 for a 33-gallon bag.

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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