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BOH OKs 'Smart Cart' trash program

July 18, 2010
SOUTHBRIDGE — If the Town Council approves, residents will be seeing a change to how curbside trash is being picked up sometime around January.

Unanimously, the Board of Health approved creating a Smart Cart program, under which every household currently getting curbside service will receive a 40-gallon toter specifically for trash. (They'll still keep the 96-gallon recycling bins.)

As described by Irene Congdon, the region's municipal assistance coordinator from Mass. Department of Environmental Protection, the program encourages people to recycle more by limiting how much trash they can have picked up weekly. From her experience, most people in towns that have implemented it had no issues.

"About 15 percent is real trash, but we're throwing out 80 percent of our recyclables," Congdon said. "… When you send something to the landfill, you create about 10 jobs, but when you put it in the recycling bin, you create 50 jobs."

To Congdon, part of the issue is how people view the things they discard. Holding up a soda can, she said she sees all the energy, materials and labor that goes into it — bauxite mining in South America, political concerns with and within those countries, labor issues there, the fuel it took to refine and transport, etc. — and said it takes significantly less energy to melt and reform such a can than it does to make it from scratch.

Closer to home, she said, around 7,000 communities nationwide have a Smart Cart program (133 in Massachusetts). Among them, towns like Grafton and Gardner have seen the program reduce their trash-disposal costs while noticeably hiking their "diversion" rates. But the change isn't "linear," she noted — A 25-percent reduction in trash tends to create a 10-percent uptick in measured recycling rates. The missing material tends to be reused or composted; participating towns have not seen an increase in illegal dumping, she said.

For more on this story, please see Monday's Southbridge Evening News.

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