No one aspires to waste anything – we all want to make the best use of what we have. Waste is regret – think of “wasted time”, “a waste of potential”, “a life wasted”. Most tangibly, though, waste is anything we throw away – and waste is costly:

  • First we pay for something we don’t use.
  • Then we pay a second time to have it disposed of.
  • We often pay a third time – without realizing it – through environmental damage and adverse health impacts.
  • Resources – natural and manufactured – are finite, and many are scarce. Scarce resources increase in cost.
To Address food waste, Green Needham supports
  • reducing waste,
  • getting food to those in need,
  • utilizing the remaining waste for uses such as compost or energy generation.

Effective October 1, 2014, all Massachusetts businesses and institutions disposing of over one ton of commercial organic material per week are required to divert that organic material from disposal as trash.  This threshold was lowered to a half-ton per week on November 1, 2022. This law has brought focus to the food waste problem and motivated food establishments to find creative solutions to reducing waste.


Green Needham’s “Toward Zero Waste” initiative aims to use the five R’s – refuse, reducereuse, and recycle – to address problems of waste. We are focused initially on three areas we believe can have the greatest impact and benefit locally – foodcommunity-wide recycling and reduce/reuse.

Recycling and Reduce/Reuse

Needham has been a state-wide leader in residential recycling rates and reducing material sent to landfills and waste to energy plants.  Green Needham aims to increase knowledge, access  and use  of recycling by the Needham community. We work closely with the Town’s Recycling and Solid Waste operations to support the excellent work they do, increase community capabilities and identify complementary resources.

Our Goals

  • Reduce the amount of trash at the RTS:
    • Divert paper/cardboard from the waste stream into the recyclable stream.
    • Divert recyclable plastic, metal, and glass from the waste stream into the recyclable stream.
    • Divert food waste from the waste stream into the RTS’ new (effective 11/1/2022) food waste program.
    • Donate clean textiles (old/ripped clothing, curtains/fabric, belts, shoes) to the “Textile Recycling” program.  
    • Donate used but still “usable” stuff, or bring it to “Swap-it” shop at the RTS when it is open (April 1 – Dec 1). 
  • Decrease the contamination of Needham’s recyclables, thereby increasing our recycle rate, and ensuring that we get the best price for our recyclables.

Our Projects

  • Improve signage at the RTS to educate the community about proper recycling practices.
  • Educate the community about the RTS’ new food waste program, and encourage participation.
  • Educate the community about the State’s new (effective 11/1/2022) waste ban items:  textiles and mattresses, and how to recycle these items.
  • Provide and maintain informational resources about how to reduce/repurpose:
    • Recyclopedia Needham – an online compendium with information about how to recycle or donate all kinds of used, but still “usable” stuff.
    • Reduce/Reuse – simple steps that you can take to reduce the amount of “stuff” in your everyday life.
    • Recycling Tips – links to Green Needham posts about recycling “best practices.”
    • Ask the Recycler – frequently asked recycling questions at the Needham RTS, with the ability to ask your own question.

What you  can do:

Get Involved:

Our most important activities revolve around getting and sharing information. You can help us research, maintain and update our resources on recycling. You can write about and share successes on our website, and using social media to encourage friends and neighbors. Or perhaps you would like to reach out to local businesses or come up with creative ways to reach more Needham residents. Your energy and ideas can make a huge difference in how much we accomplish. If you’d like to help, or just want to know more, please reach out to Jay Delaune, Green Needham’s team leader for Food Waste and Recycling.

Educational Programs

  • Food Waste workshop. On June 7, 2016, Green Needham and RecyclingWorks presented a free workshop for food service businesses in Needham, Newton, Wellesley, and other neighboring communities interested in learning about diverting wasted food from the trash through food donation, composting, and other waste diversion strategies.
  • Documentary Film. On April 10, 2016 Green Needham cosponsored a free film showing at First Parish in Needham, Unitarian Universalist. The award-winning 75-minute documentary about food waste, “Just Eat It,” was inspired by the book American Wasteland, by Wellesley High graduate Jonathan Bloom.
  • “Too Good to Waste: Creative Solutions for Reducing Food Waste” was presented on October 22, 2015 at the Needham Library.  Joshua Cook, Green Business Specialist for the Massachusetts Dept. of Environmental Protection, and Greg Smith, the Superintendent of the Needham RTS, spoke about state and local actions to reduce food waste. Food waste reduction tips for households were provided. The program was co-sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Needham.


Increasing food waste composting – In November, 2014, when the State implemented a food waste ban on institutions that generated one ton or more of food waste per week, Green Needham collaborated with local businesses, Needham Schools, the Town’s Recycling and Solid Waste Division and employee-owned cooperative CERO to enable more food service establishments implement food waste composting.  To help local businesses, Green Needham members developed an online food waste survey to collect information on how food waste is currently being handled by local food establishments.


Links on the Web

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