It all adds up! Every year Massachusetts generates 5.7 million tons of trash, of which 2.2 million tons are exported to other states. In the face of serious environmental concerns and shrinking disposal capacity throughout the Northeast, Massachusetts has a Solid Waste Master Plan with ambitious goals: reduce waste 30% by 2030 and 90% by 2050.
Yes, we need good laws and policy; we need smart product design and manufacturer responsibility, but our individual actions are an important part of the problem and can be an important part of the solution.
Top Ten Actions You Can Take to Reduce Waste
1. Get your free RTS Sticker for access to the Needham Recycling and Transfer Station.
Needham residents can pick up their free sticker in person at Town Hall, or get it by mail. See details. Even if your trash/recyclables are picked up by a commercial hauler, an RTS sticker gives you access to the many recycling and reuse opportunities at the RTS It’s not just the ordinary recyclables that are collected, but also textiles, food waste, scrap metal, batteries, fluorescent lights, tires, motor oil, yard waste and more. Or visit the Reuse – It Swap Shop to donate gently used toys/furniture.
REDUCE AT THE SOURCE
2. Reduce or eliminate single-use items
Single-use plastic items are convenient, but most are only used for a few minutes. Then they are burned, landfilled (where they can take hundreds of years to decompose), recycled (only about 25%) or are discarded and then decay into microplastics that pollute our soil and water. We can easily eliminate most of them from our lives. Start with reusable water bottles and reusable shopping bags. See our “Reduce/Reuse” page for some ideas.
3. Avoid Plastic Packaging
Choose products with more sustainable packaging when you shop. Using bar soap and bar shampoo and conditioners can eliminate many plastic bottles of personal care products. Buying a head of lettuce uses no plastic boxes. When shopping online, opt for sustainable packaging, and complain if it’s not available. See more tips.
4. Buy less, and when you do buy, opt for Products Made to Last
Does everyone who attends an event need (yet another) t-shirt? Do you really need so many decorations? Does the inexpensive “latest” fashion fall apart after a few washings? Buying less and avoiding products that are flimsy (such as “fast fashion“) are easy ways to reduce the number of items in the waste stream.
5. Keep food out of the trash: avoid food waste and put remaining scraps to good use.
More than 25% of the waste stream in Massachusetts is estimated to be food waste, and one study found that the average U.S. household wastes an amazing 31.9% of purchased food. Read tips and information on reducing food waste. For left-over food scraps, you can compost at home, hire a compost company, or bring scraps to the RTS for free. Read more.
6. Get to Know the Major Places to Donate
We often end up with usable but unneeded clothing, sports equipment, toys/furniture and household items. Make them available for reuse. There are numerous local opportunities to donate, sell/trade-in, or give to neighbors. Check out our “Reduce/Reuse” page for some ideas.
7. Heed the Textile Ban! Recycle/Donate All Clothing and Other Textiles.
Textiles can no longer be trashed — all types of clothing (except items that are wet, moldy or contaminated), plus shoes, belts, curtains and sheets, towels, stuffed animals, and more, can be brought to an organization or dropped in a collection bin. Many donated textiles can be reused, and those that cannot be reused are re-purposed. Read more.
8. Buy used, or borrow — Support the “Sharing” Economy
Need an article of clothing or a household item? Try buying used instead of new. Or request the item on Needham Freecycle. Need a sewing machine or a tool for a short-term project? Then borrow an item from the Needham Public Library’s “Library of Things.” These actions support the “sharing” economy – reducing the demand for new “stuff” and keeping things out of the waste stream. It can be fun, and you’ll save money! Check out these local resources and start shopping!
Is something broken? Often our first thought is to throw it away, yet many items just need a simple repair. Click here for information about Repair Cafes and Local Repair Shops.
10. Recycle Right
Adding non-recylable items to recycle bins adds expense, slows down the sorting process and can even injure workers. Recycling rules can be confusing, but excellent resources are available to help answer your questions. Type in any kind of material into RecycleSmartMA and the website will tell you whether or not it’s recyclable (and why). Green Needham can help you avoid common mistakes. Read about common recycling mistakes.