With the goal of strengthen recycling programs across Massachusetts and increasing public awareness, the administration of Gov. Charlie Baker and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito awarded more than $2.6 million in recycling grants to 247 Massachusetts cities, towns and solid waste districts in August. The administration also unveiled a new “Recycle Smart” initiative and website to emphasize the importance of putting only those materials that material recovery facilities (MRFs) are equipped to handle in recycling bins.
“Massachusetts cities and towns are important partners in our administration’s effort to promote and increase recycling opportunities across the commonwealth,” says Baker. “The funding awarded through the Sustainable Materials Recovery Program and the launch of a recycling awareness initiative will both support local recycling solutions and continue Massachusetts’ long-standing commitment to recycling and environmental protection.”
“Our administration is committed to working closely with municipalities and providing them with the tools necessary to increase recycling and public awareness surrounding its environmental importance,” says Polito. “Through the funding awarded to communities across the state and the unveiling of a new web portal for residents and businesses, our administration continues to take steps to help communities become more sustainable and closer to achieving their waste reduction goals.”
The funding, awarded under the Sustainable Materials Recovery Program (SMRP) Recycling Dividends Program (RDP), recognizes communities for implementing policies and programs that reduce waste and maximize reuse and recycling. To date, 194 towns and cities are receiving $2.56 million in total payments statewide, and individual awards range from $2,800 to $97,500 and help municipalities pay for new recycling bins or carts, public education and outreach, collection of difficult-to-recycle items and recycling in municipal buildings, schools and public spaces.
Additionally, 53 municipalities are being awarded a total of $51,000 for SMRP Small-Scale Initiatives Grants. These population-based awards range from $500 to $2,000 each and help communities make modest but critical investments in existing recycling programs or new, low-cost initiatives, according to the Baker-Polito administration.
“Recycling the right materials while reducing how much we throw away is a priority for the commonwealth as we update our solid waste master plan for the next decade,” says Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Matthew Beaton. “The Sustainable Materials Recovery Program grants will help communities build stronger recycling programs, encourage residents to keep trash out of recycling bins and ultimately reduce waste management costs.”
Recognizing the importance of educating residents about which materials belong in their recycling bins and which do not, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP), in partnership with material recovery facilities (MRFs) across the state, developed the “Recycle Smart” program. With a goal to eliminate contamination, reduce costs for cities and towns, maximize the ability to process recyclables and reduce worker injury, the guide and web portal lists four categories of materials that every Massachusetts community with curbside collection or a drop-off location accepts: mixed paper and cardboard; food and beverage cans; glass bottles and jars; and plastic bottles, jars, jugs and tubs.
Other materials that MRFs are not designed to handle, such as plastic shopping bags, clothing, food waste or household trash, should be recycled at retail stores, donated to charity, composted or thrown away, MassDEP says.
“We look forward to continuing our work with municipalities, private haulers, recycling processors and environmental advocates to help residents do their part to recycle smart and communities to do so more affordably,” says MassDEP Commissioner Martin Suuberg.
“Education about recycling is always important, but now it’s more critical than ever because of the harm that can be done by placing the wrong things in the recycling stream,” says State Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr. “These grants will go a long way to fueling important communication at the local level to prevent that from happening."
“It is up to us to ensure that residents across the commonwealth are being accurately educated on proper recycling practices and standards,” says State Rep. Smitty Pignatelli, house chair of the Joint Committee on the Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture. “The consequences of incorrect recycling practices are significant and harmful to our cities and towns. We are all going to greatly benefit from these grants and the Recycle Smart initiative, and I applaud the Baker-Polito administration and MassDEP for their efforts on this vital issue.”
“We know that Massachusetts residents are committed to recycling, but many don’t realize that when they throw items that are not accepted for recycling in their recycling bins and simply hope that that they get recycled, they are causing more harm than good,” says Edward Hsieh, executive director of MassRecycle, which has partnered with MassDEP on this effort. “MassRecycle thanks the Baker-Polito Administration and MassDEP for their leadership on educating the public, providing resources and creating a greener Massachusetts for everyone.”
The recent closure of a large glass bottling manufacturer in Milford, Massachusetts, has had a significant impact on regional outlets for glass collected through most municipal recycling programs. To address this gap, MassDEP says it is working directly with cities and towns through its Recycling IQ Kit and several municipal funding initiatives. The Recycling IQ Kit program helps municipalities educate residents on how to better recycle and remove contaminants from the recycling stream. The agency also has partnered with MRFs to identify alternative markets for the materials they process and to evaluate new sorting technologies for eliminating nonrecyclables.