At the Needham Congregational Church’s Climate Café on Sunday, Oct. 27th, Needham RTS Superintendent Ann Dorfman spoke to an enthusiastic group of 30 people about recycling.  Ann, who became Needham’s RTS Superintendent in Sept. 2012, has worked in the recycling field for over 15 years.  After a quick review or her background, Ann showed the group a short video from MassRecycle about paper recycling.

After the video, Ann presented some key recycling facts:

  • “Recycling” is not the correct term – it’s really “Waste Management.”
  • In Massachusetts, approximately 13,000 people are employed in the recycling industry
  • Of the total waste that is incinerated in Massachusetts, here’s the breakdown by weight (Source: Mass DEP):
    • Paper – 25%
    • Plastic – 14%
    • Metals – 5.5%
    • Glass – 2.2%
    • Organic (Food) – 21%
    • Construction/demolition – 14%
    • Other – 18.3%

So, clearly, we have the opportunity to recycle more of our waste!

  • The RTS is mixing in approximately 12 tons/week of old produce/flowers from local grocery stores in with their compost, which keeps the old produce out of the trash, and  helps the composting process. Including food waste from Needham schools is next!
  • There are 20 recycling containers around town.  Public Works has learned that these must be within five feet of the trash receptacle to be effective – otherwise, people just throw the recyclable container in the trash receptacle.
  • Needham residents may borrow recycling receptacles from the RTS (e.g., for block parties).

Ann then opened the floor to questions. The group was very engaged, and asked a lot of questions.  Some interesting and informative answers from Ann followed:

  • Corrugated cardboard is separated from paper because it’s more valuable
  • Paper-based milk and juice containers are also processed separately from paper because they are more valuable
  • Textile recycling (not widely known):  all textiles clean/free of mold can be recycled, including shoes & belts; this is a good alternative for clothing too worn out to donate to Goodwill; at the RTS, the textile recyclables should be put into the bin immediately to the left of the Goodwill trailer.
  • Pizza boxes can only be recycled if clean; the issue is that they can not be recycled if they are too greasy, so you need to expose the inside of the box (otherwise, they are assumed to be greasy and just discarded automatically).
  • Plastic containers should be as clean as possible
  • Containers:  plastic – leave the caps on;  glass jars – remove the caps
  • Glass is difficult to recycle in a “dual stream” system like Needham’s, when the glass is co-mingled with plastic and metal
  • The RTS’ reuse shed & Freecycle are great ways to recycle useful stuff that you don’t want.  Ann wants a list of more reusable options, which could be added to the RTS website.
  • The RTS wants to work with people to develop recycling programs like one for construction materials (Needham has none now).

In conclusion, Ann’s presentation was very interesting and informative.  The RTS is very supportive of recycling and re-purposing of waste, and keeping it out of our yellow bags/the incinerator.  Please check out the RTS’ new website to find answers to all your questions so that you can maximize your recycling efforts!


Needham RTS Superintendent Ann Dorfman Talks About Recycling at the Climate Cafe

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