A western Massachusetts city hopes to encourage its residents to toss away less trash and recycle more household waste.
The clock is ticking toward a 2020 deadline for the city of Springfield to reduce the amount of trash it trucks to the landfill by 30 percent from what it disposed of a decade ago.
Under orders from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, Springfield must dispose of no more than 34,000 tons of trash annually beginning two years from now. That means the city has about 6,000 tons to get out of the waste stream, according to Public Works Director Chris Cignoli.
"When we look at our trash stream and our recycling stream, there is a lot of material going into the trash stream that could go into recycling," said Cignoli.
To incentivize people to throw away less trash and increase recycling, the city is looking at reducing the size of the trash barrels used by the roughly 41,000 households that are part of the residential trash collection program.
Under this plan, the city would switch out the 95-gallon green trash barrels currently in use for new 65-gallon barrels. The 95-gallon blue recycling barrels would remain, and Cignoli said collections would increase from every other week to once per week.
"People who do a good job of recycling, their barrels are really full after two weeks, so if we can get to them every week we know they will put more in there," said Cignoli.
Springfield has what is known as single-stream recycling where plastics, paper, glass and metals all go into one container rather than being separated into different bins.
The city charges $90 per year for households to participate in the curbside trash and recyclables collections program. Cignoli said he is not proposing to change the trash fee.
"The goal is you will put out your trash as you do now, and put out recycling , and what you put out we are going to pick up. Our hope is that stuff just moves from one barrel into the other, and we're going to pick it up," said Cignoli.
For now, all that is being proposed is a pilot program. The smaller trash barrels would be tried out at about 11,600 households that are on Friday’s trash collection route.
"We have single family homes, double-family homes, biggerf homes, a real mix ( on the Friday route), so we get a very good idea if this is going to work," Cignoli explained.
Cignoli said before the pilot program launches there will be an educational outreach program.
" If everything goes right we hope to start the pilot program right after Labor Day, do a good 4-6 months and then look at the data and decide to roll it out to the rest of the city, said Cignoli.
When the idea of going to a smaller trash barrel to encourage more recycling was first suggested last summer, City Councilor Kateri Walsh said she liked the idea of a test program.
"I think people would welcome being able to put out their recycling every week," said Walsh. "I think it is a win-win. It helps the city, it helps the residents and maybe cuts down a little on illegal dumping."
Cignoli said he has requested only a small increase in the budget for the residential trash collection program from $8.9 million in this fiscal year to $9.1 million. The increase, he said, would be almost entirely to cover employee pay raises.