By Bethany Bray
---- — SALEM — Mandatory recycling could be coming to Salem.
The idea, supported by Mayor Kim Driscoll and the city’s recycling committee, has come up recently as the city is negotiating new contracts for trash and recycling pickup and disposal.
Erin Huggard, chairwoman of Salem Recycles, said it would be a “good change,” similar to when Salem limited trash barrels to 35 gallons or less a number of years ago.
“Mandatory recycling would be a great push for us. ... It would give us a chance to increase our recycling amount and decrease our waste tonnage,” Huggard said. “A lot of people might think this is some type of punishment. ... It didn’t take long for people to learn (to use 35-gallon trash bins). It took a short period of time for people to get used to the change.”
Mandating recycling would qualify the city for a $50,000 state grant. The money would be used to create a “recycling coordinator” position who would encourage and educate residents on recycling, said Julie Rose, the recycling committee’s business manager.
Other Massachusetts communities that have created such a position have seen a marked decrease in trash tonnage, Rose said. As opposed to trash, the city pays nothing to dispose of recyclables and takes in revenue for recycled paper.
Mandatory recycling would have to be approved by the City Council; Driscoll submitted a proposed city ordinance on Feb. 26, but the council has yet to discuss the issue.
As proposed, residents would be required to leave a recycling bin out with their trash. The change would have an extensive grace period, with the city notifying residents with fliers, website updates, notices on local cable television and other means.
“Our approach is not to be punitive,” Driscoll said. “The idea is to encourage people to find new ways (to recycle). ... I’m really trying to stress that it’s not punitive.”
The proposed ordinance would require residents to recycle items already mandated by the Department of Environmental Protection — glass, cardboard, bottles and cans, etc.
The issue is not linked to the city’s new trash and recycling contracts, which Driscoll sent to the City Council last week.
Councilors sent Driscoll’s three proposed contracts — for trash and recycling pickup, trash disposal, and processing recyclables — to be vetted in a yet-to-be-scheduled subcommittee meeting.
If passed, the new contracts would take effect July 1. The contracts do not carry any major changes to resident pickup or service, Driscoll said.
Driscoll negotiated the contracts after Salem went out to bid with the city of Beverly to explore joint trash collection this winter. The two cities opted to go it alone after the venture did not yield significant savings.
City Council approval is needed because the contracts extend beyond three years.
The city’s current contract, which uses one contractor to collect and dispose of waste, expires in June. Salem’s costs are budgeted at $2.74 million this year, an amount that includes both collection and disposal.
The new contracts separate the tasks and use different contractors to pick up and dispose of trash and recycling.
Driscoll estimated that the city will save $250,000 per year through the new contracts.
“There’s an opportunity for savings,” Driscoll said. “That’s the value of putting these things out to bid. It makes everyone sharpen their pencils.”
The city’s Recycling Committee, a volunteer, mayor-appointed group, was re-formed five years ago, Huggard said.
The committee receives a lot of questions from residents over recycling. Having the grant-funded recycling coordinator would ease confusion and also help keep recycling from being contaminated with nonrecyclable materials, Huggard said.
“We get a lot of resistance from people, in many ways,” Huggard said. “There’s always going to be resistance, but I think we need to try (mandatory recycling). ... We really have one goal, to help people (recycle) properly, and help people to do it at all. It’s beneficial to the city, all around.”
More than 75 Massachusetts communities have adopted mandatory recycling, Driscoll said, including Danvers.
The proposed mandatory recycling ordinance was drafted by City Solicitor Beth Rennard and Dave Knowlton.
Bethany Bray can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @SalemNewsBB.
Proposed trash/recycling contracts
Solid waste/recycling collection and transportation: Northside Carting (Salem’s incumbent contractor), July 2013 to June 2018.
Recycling processing: Northshore Recycled Fibers (Salem’s incumbent contractor), July 2013 to June 2016, with two one-year options to extend; the city would be paid $25 per ton, minimum, for recycled paper and wouldn’t be charged for co-mingled recycling processing.
Disposal of solid waste: Covanta Haverhill Associates, July 2013 through July 2018 with five one-year options to renew.
* Estimated costs could not be verified as of press time.
Source: Whitney Haskell, Salem purchasing agent