This article was submitted by Martha Dansdill of the Board of Health.
The Swampscott Board of Health recently presented a report card on the Waste Reduction Program to selectmen and Finance Committee members, with data on the first four months since the program began in November.
Swampscott residents have to date reduced trash disposal by 12 percent, while increasing the recycling rate from 17 to 25 percent.
Projecting ahead to fiscal year 2013 which begins this July, the Board of Health predicts that trash amounts will fall from 5,079 tons to 4,500 tons, saving the town on disposal charges at $84.68 per ton.
Without the reduction program, the line item cost for rubbish in FY2013 (under the terms of the original Hiltz contract) was scheduled to be $1,009,000. With waste reduction in place and a renegotiated contract with Hiltz, the projected cost is conservatively estimated at $913,120, saving the town approximately $96,000.
"Swampscott residents have come together for the benefit of the town budget and the environment," said Board of Health Chairperson Martha Dansdill. "The townspeople have done a marvelous job adapting to the change, and we can expect this to be sustained year-after-year."
Informal surveys have demonstrated wide-spread acceptance of the reduction program. Not only have more than 95 percent of residents complied with the three barrel or bag limit, 79 percent of residents leave two barrels or fewer. Only a handful of residents have found the need to use the over-flow stickers to throw away more than three bags or barrels.
“With very little effort, our family of five manages to put out one bag of trash each week,” said Swampscott resident Thomas Middleton. “We find there are easy ways to make our recycling efforts routine so that we don’t even think of it as anything out of the ordinary. The trash policy is reasonable and makes economic sense for Swampscott.”
Looking ahead, the reduction program will be limiting trash disposal to two 35-gallon barrels, or two 30-gallon bags starting July 1. "The vast majority of residents already use two or fewer barrels for their trash weekly, so we don't anticipate a major hardship in July," said Nelson Kessler, a member of the Board of Health.
"What the BOH has heard most frequently from residents is that they want weekly recycling," stated Dr. Lawrence Block, the third member of the health panel. "That will cost the town an additional $140,000, but we expect that with the savings we realize in next year's trash disposal budget, we will be able to fund weekly recycling starting July, 2013."
Over 136 Massachusetts communities are realizing fiscal benefits through waste reduction programs and increased recycling efforts, including Salem, Peabody, Ipswich, Gloucester, Hamilton and Danvers.
Swampscott’s reduction program was developed following careful review of existing programs and with input from the selectmen and other stakeholders.