Three months after its introduction, Swampscott residents have embraced the new waste reduction program and the Town is beginning to reap the benefits.
Swampscott’s curbside recycling rate which was stagnant at 17% for the past 5 years has risen to 24% in the three months since the program’s start. This translates into less trash, which means less costs to the Town*, and most importantly a keener fiscal responsibility with our tax dollars. (*The cost to process a ton of our recyclables is flat; the cost to dispose of our trash is $83/ton.)
Initially, as expected, some confusion arose concerning the use of ‘large’ barrels – such as those which are 64 gallons in size.
For those still asking the ’64-gallon question,’ please read on.
Although ‘large’ barrels (defined as greater than 35 gallons in size) are readily available for purchase, they were never meant to be manually hauled. In fact, most are designed for heavy loads and used with automated collection trucks.
Thirty-five gallon containers are considered the largest container that a hauler can safely lift, repetitively. Many communities including Salem, Hamilton, Peabody, Lynn, and Ipswich banned the use of these large barrels when adopting their waste reduction policies.
Residents in Swampscott have been encouraged to use barrels no larger than 35 gallons, for the reason above. Using this size, loose trash and any number of small trash bags may be placed into these containers, up to 50 pounds in each. Likewise, 30-gallon trash bags may be filled up to 50 pounds. (Each household is allowed three containers per week - 35 gallon barrels or bags 30 gallons or less.)
However, there is an exception to the 35 gallon barrel. Recognizing that some residents own ‘large’ 50- and 64-gallon barrels, these barrels are allowed with 2 conditions: First, no loose trash can be placed into barrels larger than 35 gallons. In other words all trash needs to be bagged when placed in a ‘large’ barrel. Why? Because, as mentioned above, large barrels are not manually dumped, instead haulers retrieve individual bags from them. Secondly, since the haulers are not determining trash volume at the curb, only the number of acceptable containers, it may be necessary to put a couple of small kitchen bags into a larger bag to be within the allowance. To avoid these nuances, just use 35 gallon barrels. Your ‘large’ barrel can easily be repurposed for recyclables such as cardboard or plastics and cans.
Although Swampscott residents have been educated about recycling for twenty years, it took a waste reduction policy to nudge the recycling rate along. These small individual efforts to reduce trash add up and will lessen the unnecessary consumption of our tax dollars for trash services, both now and in the future.