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Two Important Updates Announced for Cambridge Recycling and Compost Program

30-gallon compost cart

Once your recycling is collected curbside in Cambridge, the City’s collection contractor drives the recycling to their recycling processor, Casella, located in Charlestown. In June 2023, Casella upgraded their processing facility with completely new equipment. The upgrades will accommodate trends in the recycling industry, and increase efficiency through the use of robotics, artificial intelligence. The Charlestown facility is among the largest in the US, processing up to 240,000 tons of recycling per year. To learn more about how your recyclables are being sorted using the latest and greatest in recycling technology, visit here.

Since 2019, the markets for recycling have changed quite a bit due to a new policy in China (the largest purchaser of recyclables). One of the most impactful changes was the removal of paper cartons** from the acceptable list.

Another new change effective immediately is the removal of black plastic containers from the acceptable list. Black plastic containers are not accepted in recycling. The reason: the recycling facility sorts plastics by bouncing a beam of light off them. Since black plastic absorbs light, it can't be sorted and will end up in the trash. We had hoped that the retrofit at Casella would allow for these to be captured for recycling, but the market for recycling black plastic is not good. The pigment in the plastic makes it nearly impossible to be recycled into a new product.

While we hope you exclude black plastics in your recycling, it's even more important to remind friends and neighbors to not recycle the following damaging items:

     1.  Batteries (these can cause fires if compressed at facility)
     2.  Plastic bags and films (i.e. shipping pillows, bubble wrap, bubble envelopes, etc)
     3.  Tanglers (i.e. cords, e-waste, hangers)

**Paper cartons are paper containers used to contain liquids (milk, juice, soup, ice cream, etc). Paper cartons are not the same as paperboard (i.e. cereal boxes, cracker boxes) and cardboard; both of those are recyclable.

Changes to compost program:

Since launching curbside compost, the City has distributed thousands of compost carts. As we grow, we are learning and reevaluating our programs. We are collecting more food waste each week and our drivers/laborers have provided some valuable feedback.

To help our collection crews, we're asking residents in buildings with 2 or more units if they'd consider swapping out their 12-gallon cart for one 35-gallon compost cart (see photo). The 35-gallon cart is taller and easier to roll to the curb. For our collection crew, they are tipper-compatible, making emptying the carts safer for them. We would greatly appreciate it if you considered swapping carts! Fill out this form or email us to make this change.

Page was posted on 7/19/2023 12:10 PM
Page was last modified on 7/25/2023 3:33 AM
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