SALEM — Despite concerns that a proposed regulation smacks of “Big Brother” and carries potential fines, city councilors appear ready to support Mayor Kim Driscoll’s mandatory recycling program.
At a recent Committee of the Whole meeting, councilors voted to move a mandatory recycling ordinance before the full council for a vote, most likely this week.
While expressing displeasure with the word “mandatory” and fears about potential fines for residents who don’t recycle, some councilors also sounded excited about a program that could save the city money while helping the environment.
“I love this program,” Ward 3 Councilor Todd Siegel said.
Siegel rattled off figures from other communities that have mandatory recycling, showing annual savings of more than $90,000 in one town that was able to reduce its trash tonnage.
Under a new trash contract expected to take effect July 1, Salem will save $61.50 for every ton of material not sent to a disposal site. In other words, the more the city recycles, the more money it can save.
Under the city’s dual-stream program, residents can recycle aluminum containers, paper, metal, glass and some plastics.
The average Salem household generates about a ton of trash a year, according to material supplied by the city.
Several councilors appeared more comfortable supporting the measure after being told they could adopt an implementation plan that makes it clear there will be a long grace period, that residents will be provided with numerous educational materials and multiple notices, and that fines would be a last and, hopefully, seldom-used resort.
The ordinance calls for a written notice for a first violation, a written warning for the second, and a $25 fine for third and subsequent offenses.
Driscoll, who brought the proposal to the council, agreed that the goal is not to take money out of residents’ pockets. Financial penalties are only included, she said, because the city is required to do so in order to receive a $50,000 state grant to hire a mandatory recycling coordinator.