The Lynn DPW is launching the second year of a program called the “Recycling IQ Kit” on May 29 that will run for 16 weeks through the second week of September. The goal of the program is to “Increase” the “Quality” of the recycling collected at the curbside by raising the “Recycling IQ” of the residents using the curbside trash and recycling program.
The Recycling IQ Kit program is funded through a grant from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP). Last year the Department of Public Works (DPW) ran the program in 10 neighborhoods over 16 weeks, reaching more than 5,000 households. Recycling contamination for those households decreased by more than 70 percent as a result of the program.
The Recycling IQ Kit combines an aggressive campaign of public education and direct feedback at the curbside. Included in the education efforts are a direct mail piece to all residents, newspaper ads, social media ads, as well as messaging on billboards, banners, store signs and sandwich boards that are now going up around the City. A team of summer workers has been hired and they will work from May through September to implement the curbside feedback program that will target an additional 5,000 households on every recycling collection route in the City this year. By the end of year two of the program, 40 percent of residents using the curbside trash and recycling program will have benefitted from the direct feedback Julia Greene, Lynn’s Recycling Coordinator, explained the program: “As part of the Recycling IQ Kit program, we will be lifting the lids of well over 5,000 recycling carts on the daily routes for both Green and Blue Recycling weeks. If we find a large amount of plastic bags, trash or other things that don’t belong in the recycling cart, we will be tagging those carts with an “Oops Tag” which will signal to Waste Management to not pick up the carts.
Residents whose carts get tagged will need to clean up the cart by getting rid of the offending material and then putting it out properly on their next recycling pick up day. We will be checking those same carts eight times over a 16-week period, allowing enough time for the behavior modification of recycling right to take effect”. In addition, this year we will be spot checking carts throughout the City and running more in depth checks on the routes we worked last year, as part of a reinforcement effort, and to collect data on which areas have higher levels of contamination.”
In communities across Massachusetts there is a problem with “contamination” which is a catch phrase to describe things that don’t belong in the recycling cart. Plastic bags are the biggest problem, which regularly shut down operations in the recycling processing plants.
Food waste, foam containers, dirty napkins, and even clothing are all common problems, yet construction debris, yard waste and even vacuum cleaners turn up in some recycling carts. This is a problem because these items can contaminate a whole load, resulting in having to trash the load, as well as endangering workers on the processing line. The City also gets charged for the cost of contaminated recycling. “Contamination in recycling is a national problem, which has become an urgent issue for all communities in the past year”, said Lisa Nerich, Lynn DPW Associate Commissioner. “China buys 80 percent of the world’s recyclables and in 2017, the country announced new, very strict standards on the quality of recyclables they will accept. As a result, municipalities are now paying the cost of contaminated recycling. Lynn has a very high contamination rate, over 30 percent, even after running the program last year, and we are paying thousands monthly as a result. Through the Recycling IQ Program we plan to reduce contamination in Lynn’s recycling down below 10 percent this year, which will decrease considerably the cost we are now paying for contaminated recycling”.