by Kelly J. Cooper
At the Somerville ResiStat meeting on May 26, David Lutes, Somerville’s Director of Sustainability and Environment, announced a pilot program introducing single-stream recycling to about 1,300 households in the northern part of Ward 5. Lutes and his team sought a neighborhood with (1) a variety of housing and street types; (2) a decent (but not spectacular) recycling record.
ResiStat data (see chart) shows that Somerville’s highest recycling rates – the percentage of overall trash that is recyclable – are in the western parts Somerville, where there is Monday and Tuesday collection. By contrast, the lowest recycling rates are in eastern Somerville, where there is Thursday and Friday collection. The northern part of Ward 5, where there is Wednesday collection, has rates that are in-between.
Single-stream recycling would allow residents to dump all their recyclables – cans, bottles, plastic, paper, cardboard, you name it – into the same bin without having to perform any packing or pre-organizing. Through the pilot program, which will cost $55,000 to buy the bins, the city hopes to learn whether it can provide every household with a 90-gallon barrel, as opposed to a variety of sizes; and if the latter, what the impact will be on the trucks used for pickup.
The city also hopes to learn whether single-stream recycling can improve its overall 15 percent recycling rate. (That is, if the city collects 10 tons of trash in a week, 1.5 tons are recyclables.) In Boston and Newton, single-stream recycling accounted for 40–50 percent increases in recycling rates. More recyclables for Somerville would mean more revenues – last fiscal year, the city generated $180,000 by selling its recyclables.
There is no hard start date for the pilot, since the city is awaiting procurement on the barrels. But Lutes hopes it will happen sometime this summer.