Each week, Abington News is asking the three candidates for the Board of Health a question to help voters better understand them as candidates. Election Day is Saturday, April 30. These three candidates are running for two 3-year seats on the board.
Candidate responses are published as submitted, in the order they were received, and were not edited.
This week’s question is: The cost of trash and recycling disposal is growing at an unsustainable rate. What do you think the Board of Health can – or should – do to help address this issue?
Reponses from Week 1 can be found here.
There are a few ways I think the Board of Health can address the excessive amount of trash and recycling.
Teach people benefits of personal composting. Maybe set up a town compost site where food scraps can be dropped off and then collected by those who use it.
We could reach out to local landscapers, gardening centers and farms to see if they would consider helping by creating their own compost to utilize. We could look into possibly getting them a tax write off for their help.
Educate the community on ways to reuse recyclable items.
Pose question to all the grade levels to help with ideas. Get kids involved in the initiative somehow.
While discussing my run for the Board of Health, Trash & Recycling is a topic that repeatedly comes up. I know the community is concerned about convenience and increasing costs.
There are a couple of things we can do as a community to aid in decreasing cost. The first would be to try to decrease bulk. The less trash we are throwing away, the lower our costs will be.
-I think we should better publicize Abington’s compost site and what materials it takes, so people can take advantage of it.
-By reusing and repurposing clothing/textiles we can eliminate weight. With small kids that are growing like weeds, I donate or hand-me-down all their outgrown clothing instead of automatically tossing them. I recently learned that the textile collection bins at Beaver Brook Elementary school and next to the library take all the funds raised from those bins and bring the profit back to the schools. A win-win!
-Encouraging refillable bottles instead of single use plastic is another way of decreasing waste.
-I would like to see more use of the plastic bag return bins at stores. I dislike the thicker plastic bags that some larger businesses turned to instead of making the switch to paper. Working together to keep plastic bags out of landfills is another small step that can make a big difference.
-I question if Abington could have its own trash and recycle trucks. Is it a viable option? Could we partner with our neighboring towns? I suspect this could give us some control over factors we cannot control now, but could be expensive upfront.
More people are staying home and therefore Abington is producing more waste. Decreasing tonnage is a controllable way to make a change.
Ultimately it will be the job of the Board of Health to listen to the community and help navigate the best course with our Town Manager. I hope to be a part of the team contributing to these solutions.
As I touched upon briefly last week, while the procurement and administration of the solid waste collection contract is the responsibility of Town Manager and the procurement officer; the Board of Health does get involved in waste related nuisances. With that in mind, there are a few things that the Board can do to support the Health Department and the Town Manager in their effort to decrease the rising tonnage.
First is supporting the Health Department in finding and adding collection programs at our compost site. As part of the MassDEP Recycling Dividends Program (RDP), we receive points for having a Center for Hard to Recycle Materials (CHARM) and holding Hazardous Household Waste Collection. While the compost site does collect most of the listed items for CHARM collection, we should be working to expand those options to the full 15 items listed. A related aside, if residents haven’t checked out the South Shore Recycling Cooperative site for Hazardous Waste Disposal dates and other recycling information, I highly encourage you to do so!
To add to the point above, there are items that have become more desirable in recent years that are consistently just thrown away in the regular garbage. Cardboard, for example, has become scarce over the past year due to supply chain issues and increased e-commerce during the pandemic. It has even been asked that residents recycle pizza grease soaked pizza boxes which were previously deemed not fit for recycling because of this new need for cardboard. Programs that would take advantage of collecting hard to recycle and desired items outside of our single stream programs will not only decrease the tonnage, but also provide monetary contributions to offset tonnage costs.
Secondly, the Board should assist in the creation of educational materials to promote proper trash and recycling habits. Prior to the pandemic, the Board began to partner with Abington CAM. We produced informative videos on Mosquitoes and EEE as well as Ticks and Lyme Disease. I believe we should continue to utilize this relationship to provide educational programming on proper recycling habits and prohibited items. Furthermore, our RDP grant gives us one point for the use of five Waste Prevention Outreach and Education methods. These include activities such as: Creating a guide or manual such as: Move-Out Recycling Guide, Reuse Guide, A-Z Recycling Guide, etc., having an active recycling committee or other municipally recognized entity assist with education and outreach, and sending an annual town-wide household recycling mailing. Education is one important way we can decrease our tonnage costs at the lowest level.
Lastly, the Board should support the Health Department in hiring a dedicated Recycling Enforcement and Compliance Officer (RECO). As part of our RDP grant we are awarded 3 points for having an Enforcement/Education Coordinator spending 19 hours on the street verifying compliance with recycling related requirements such as Mandatory Recycling and/or Quality Recycling by means of contamination reduction. As it stands right now, we do not have a RECO that is able to spend the 19 required hours on this enforcement. The importance of this position is twofold. One, the RDP points earned help us with designated activities and equipment that will enhance the performance of our waste reduction programs. Two, a compliance officer will ensure that residents are following the requirements for proper recycling and in turn help reduce tonnage through the encouragement of proper recycling habits.
In summary, the Board, while limited in official actions it can take to help this issue, should support the activities mentioned above to meet our mission of promoting the health and well-being of all residents.