- Massachusetts residents will now be asked to "Recycle Smart" as part of a new statewide campaign funded by the Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP). The education initiative was officially launched at an event in Salem by Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, MassDEP Commissioner Martin Suuberg and Mayor Kim Driscoll.
- The campaign centers around a new list of recommended materials for recycling programs to accept throughout the state. This doesn't include some common items, such as cartons and plastic clamshells, but still includes glass. Items are searchable on a newly created website.
- MassDEP also announced $2.6 million in recycling grants for 247 municipalities as part of its ongoing Sustainable Materials Recovery Program (SMRP) to recognize waste reduction. Separately, 53 municipalities have also been awarded $51,000 worth of small-scale SMRP grants.
MassDEP will put an estimated $350,000 behind this campaign for 2018, bringing in the local PR firm Solomon McCown to take the lead. The process began by consulting with MRF operators in December 2017, as market effects appeared as a result of China's scrap import policies, and disposal waivers started getting issued for a variety of reasons. A draft list was released in March and finalized by May, with participation from seven of the state's eight MRF operators.
This news was discussed at a June meeting of the agency's Solid Waste Advisory Committee, where there was talk about focus group participants being particularly struck by the human element of MRF sorters having to deal with contamination. This angle is present in some of the Recycle Smart campaign materials in an effort to bring more attention to the post-curb safety consequences of poor recycling habits.
MassDEP's move comes as municipalities and service providers alike continue to feel the market pinch in a big way. All involved have been bracing for more expensive recycling costs, but some are more willing or able to handle them than others. As of early August, 47 disposal waivers for single-sort material had been issued to companies and municipalities since last fall.
Adding to all of this is the fact that a major glass bottling plant was abruptly closed in the state earlier this year, removing a key end market. MassDEP has been approving temporary disposal waivers for glass, but officials have so far refused to change the material's status as a waste ban item. Multiple MRF operators had hoped to see that switch with this new standardized list.
The new campaign is expected to include billboards and commercials, as well as free publicity via local media, and will serve as a complement to MassDEP's existing Recycling IQ Kit program. Those materials have also been updated to reflect the changes, utilizing new graphics provided by Waste Management.
States such as Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Oregon and Washington have all taken or considered similar universal approaches. Standardized lists are meant to serve as a suggestion for municipalities, even if they may not be adopted verbatim at first. They're also a preferred tool for service providers show that their recommendations to potentially cut certain items have statewide consensus.