Cambridge Roundtable on Single Stream Recycling



Council Roundtable Discussion on Single Stream Recycling

On Tuesday May 18, 2010 staff from the Public Works Department presented information on single stream recycling to the City Council. Single stream recycling is when residents can mix papers, cardboard, bottles and cans in the same recycling container. DPW included a proposal to switch to single stream in the FY11 budget. Click here to see the presentation.

The Cambridge Chronicle and Cambridge Day published articles about the meeting.

Frequently Asked Questions

When will single stream recycling begin in Cambridge?
Pending Council approval of the FY11 budget on 5/24/10, single stream recycling would begin September 20, 2010.

What is single stream recycling?
No more sorting! With single stream, or "zero-sort" recycling, residents will be able to mix clean papers, cardboard, bottles and cans together in the same recycling bin. All clean cardboard will be accepted.

Will more materials be accepted?
Yes! Because the new recycling trucks can compact the material, all clean cardboard will be accepted. Please flatten when possible, but you no longer need to cut it down! Also, we will accept:

Empty pizza boxes (no cheese or crust!)
Empty paper coffee cups (no Styrofoam)
Big plastic items like laundry baskets, buckets and toys (please remove batteries)
Spiral cans (i.e. potato chip, coffee, and nut cans)
What are the benefits?
By switching to single stream recycling and toters for all residences, the City expects to see at least 10% more tons of recycling!

No more sorting makes recycling easier
Larger toters fit more recycling
Wheels make it easy to move recycling to the curb
Lids help reduce litter on windy days
Compacting trucks can take any size cardboard
Less clutter of bins on the sidewalk
Safer because truck tip toters at ground level not over the top
Recycling saves energy and curbs climate change because recycled products use less energy during manufacturing. It also helps the City save money by controlling disposal costs.

When will residences with 1-5 units receive the new recycling toters on wheels?
In September. We will be mailing owners more information in June and a reminder in August. There are already over 4000 toters at 6+ unit residences and city buildings throughout the City.

Type of Residence Toters City will Deliver
Single Family Home 1 small toter
Two Family Home 2 small toters
Triple Decker 2 large toters
4 Unit Building 2 large toters
5 Unit Building 2 large toters
Small Toter: 65 gallon, 44”H x 26”W x 28”D
Large Toter: 95 gallon, 47”H x 27”W x 34”D

Both toters are easy to move and we believe that even elderly residents will find this a much more convenient way to recycle. Let us know if neighbors want to share toters, single or two-family homes may want a large toter instead, or multi-family buildings may need more.

What if I live in a building with 6 units or more?
Multi-family residences with 6+ units should already have toters. If not, please click here to request toters.

What if space is an issue and I cannot fit the toters on my property?
We might visit your property to offer storage ideas. If you feel space is an issue, call DPW at 617-349-4815 to discuss your options:

Share recycling toters with a neighbor
Convert a 32 gallon trash can for recycling, call for a sticker
Continue using blue bins
What should I do with my old recycling bins?
You can keep them, use them indoors and empty your recycling into the toters. Otherwise, place them upside down at the curb the day after collection in September and October and we will pick them up. You may also drop them off at DPW during business hours or when the Recycling Center is open.

How is the quality of single stream recycling?
Quality of recycling is always important because the materials are sold as commodities to manufacturers to make new products. Recyclables must compete with virgin materials and meet strict quality specifications set by the mills that buy them.

Casella Recycling, the City's recycling processor has invested $8 million into cutting edge sorting technology at their facility in Charlestown MA. In order of importance, their goals are 1) Safety, 2) Quality, 3) Productivity. Casella has presort and quality control checks where employees remove unacceptable items. Sorting technology removes glass at five different points during processing. Material is re-circulated continually to ensure a quality sort and maximum recovery.

Click here to watch a 6 minute video to see the recycling process!

Casella has consistently reported that recycling loads from Cambridge are among the cleanest in the Boston area. Only 3-5% ends up as residue. So, we rely on your continued participation and commitment to ensure that the right materials go in your bin. Drivers will reject recycling that has trash in it.

Remember, no plastic bags, no Styrofoam, no liquids, no food residue, no VCR tapes, no light bulbs, and no clothing hangers. These items can damage equipment and contaminate other recyclables.

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