SALEM — The new mandatory recycling program has enjoyed a relatively smooth rollout, with the city having already diverted about 300 tons of waste for a savings of $20,000, program enforcement coordinator Jeff Cohen said in a recent interview.
The recycling ordinance was approved by the City Council in May and took effect on July 1. It requires residents to set out recycling with their trash at least once every two weeks. The ordinance included a three-month grace period during which Cohen and the city tried to educate the public about recycling, including through face-to-face meetings with residents and an advertisement campaign that aired on Salem Access Television.
Cohen was hired to his 18-month contract via monies from the Department of Environmental Protection and the city’s trash budget. During the grace period, he canvassed the city, measured “set-out” rates and educated people about recycling.
“I went to approximately 13,000 addresses and posted about 6,000 door hangers,” he said. “During that period, I spoke to about 2,800 people face-to-face and a lot of other people on phone calls.”
The city pays a little more than $60 a ton to dispose of trash, with the average person producing about that much each year. Recycling plastic, metal or glass costs the city nothing, and paper and cardboard can be sold for a profit of $20 a ton.
Salem’s recycling program is dual-stream, meaning paper and cardboard materials must be separated from plastic and other recyclables. Cohen said that communities with single-stream recycling programs — all materials are put curbside together — can’t sell their paper or cardboard.
The grace period ended on Sept. 30, after which Cohen began driving ahead of the recycling truck, determining which residents had correctly put theirs curbside and which hadn’t. He said that while it was difficult to gauge the citywide level of compliance with the program, the number of addresses that put out recycling has increased since the program’s inception.