SALEM — Mandatory recycling is coming to Salem.
After months of discussion, the City Council voted last night to adopt a mandatory recycling policy supported by Mayor Kim Driscoll and the city’s recycling committee.
The policy, meant to save the city money on trash disposal, will have an extensive grace period but would ultimately charge a $25 fine to residents who repeatedly do not put recycling on the curb.
Adoption of the policy qualifies the city for a $50,000 state grant to hire a recycling coordinator, an employee who will enforce the policy and do outreach and education to boost resident recycling.
The mandatory recycling policy was approved with a 10-1 vote last night, with Councilor-at-large Arthur Sargent the lone vote in opposition.
Through the spring, Sargent has said the city’s recycling bins don’t encourage people to recycle because they’re cumbersome and don’t have a lid, leaving items unsecured.
It’s “fundamentally wrong” to force people to recycle instead of helping them — which new bins would do, Sargent said.
“The next thing we should recycle is those blue bins we’ve had for 20 years,” Sargent said.
Councilors Josh Turiel and William Legault suggested that the savings the city reaps in reduced trash hauling costs with the new policy should be put toward better-designed recycling bins.
The city’s new trash and recycling contracts take effect July 1. The mandatory recycling policy will begin with a three-month grace period, during which no warnings or fines will be issued to residents.
If a resident does not put recycling out to the curb on trash pickup day, the recycling coordinator will leave door hangers, call the household and send letters explaining the city’s policy. The $25 fine would be issued only if a resident failed to put out recycling for eight consecutive weeks, despite the coordinator’s letters and calls.
Fines can be waived if a household appeals and begins recycling within 21 days after the fine is issued.
Several drafts of the policy were discussed and revised by councilors through March and April.
Councilors removed language that would have asked the city’s trash hauler not to collect trash from addresses that didn’t put out a recycling bin with their trash barrels.
As adopted, all residents’ trash will be collected regardless of whether they recycle.
Bethany Bray can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @SalemNewsBB.