Boston now pays more to have its recyclables hauled away than its trash, so its time to look at getting more creative with how it encourages residents to recycle, City Councilor Matt O'Malley (Jamaica Plain, West Roxbury) said today.
Single-stream recycling, in which residents just top off those large blue wheeled containers with pretty much everything, was wonderful for being convenient and getting people used to recycling, but it "doesn't work, because we are contaminating things and mixing things."
O'Malley, the council's chief environmental advocate said. Where China once accepted American recycling with relatively high amounts of "contaminants" - such as food scraps, it no longer does, and now Boston is paying $120 to $125 to have a ton of recycling collected, compared to about $95 for trash, he said. He noted that just nine years ago, the city was getting paid about $5 or $6 a ton for its recyclables.
The council agreed with O'Malley's request for a hearing to begin looking at possibly moving away from single-stream recycling to separate pickups for such things as textiles, which the city can currently have collected for free, because those are still worth money, food scraps, which can be composted for use by city gardeners, and glass. He added the city should also start looking at individual recycling of containers, such as coffee cups.
O'Malley emphasized that recycling remains a good thing - and he said that three-quarters of what Boston residents throw away as trash could be recycled - but that the city has to get smarter and cut costs. "We're fiscal stewards of the taxpayers' money," he said. "Right now we're not getting a great deal for our taxpayers."
Councilor Frank Baker (Dorchester) agreed, and said the city should look to invest in large "digesters" that could turn food scraps into compost. Not only would a city composting program save money, it would provide good jobs for local workers.