Moving to Zero Waste: Reduce, Reuse, Repurpose, Recycle/Compost, then Trash
Solid Waste in Westford
Westford's trash is sent to an incinerator to be burned. Burning our solid waste, particularly waste that could be reused, recycled, or composted, is costly both in carbon and financial terms. Combustion produces CO2 and particulates which pollute our environment. Westford is a large town with a lot of road miles to be traversed to collect and haul trash, an expense that also produces emissions, and the town pays per ton of trash incinerated, above and beyond the fees paid for collection.
The Westford Recycling Commission is charged with reducing and diverting trash in town and has been working hard to provide residents with information and events for decades. Trash is managed by the Town Manager's Office. The WRC web site is a treasure trove of important and current information on both trash and recycling. In addition, the Commission produces a mailing for every household at the beginning of each fiscal year with a calendar of disposal and education events they run for residents, also available on the website.
Westford Climate Roadmap goals for Waste Reduction
While solid waste incineration is a relatively small slice of Westford's green house gas emissions, it is an area where residents can help to make big strides in improving both the financial and environmental health of the town. Westford residents produce, on average, a ton of trash per household per year, far above the state average. As a result, the Westford Climate Roadmap includes a set of proposed waste reduction goals to be tackled by stakeholders in town:
- With the approval of the Select Board, incorporate a new barrel limit (down from three in the current contract) and/or Pay-As-You-Throw (PAYT) program, in the new solid waste contract, by the end of FY 2023.
- Explore the option, precedent, appetite, market, and advantages/disadvantages of returning to multi-stream recycling with the new recycling contract.
- Increase the emphasis on reuse rather than recycling, so that people think of recycling not as their first option for disposing of things, but the second-to-last one.
- Continue to promote composting and evaluate the need for a community compost option.
- In conjunction with stakeholders, seek to build understanding of the reuse, diversion and recycling opportunities available to the business community, as well as the budget and carbon savings associated with changing disposal habits.
- Assist businesses and households in understanding the out-of-pocket savings to be achieved through reuse and purchases of recycled and minimally packaged products.
- Pursue federal Environment Protection Agency (EPA) funding for regional initiatives in solid waste recycling infrastructure and outreach to move toward a zero-waste economy.
The Sustainability Department collaborates with WRC on projects and outreach throughout the year to help all constituencies in town reach these goals. As part of the Town Manager's Office, the Sustainability Coordinator is also part of the team working on embedding waste reduction and cost reduction in our solid waste contracts and policy. In addition, the Sustainability Department works with the School Department because the school age population have a particular interest and investment in behavior change with regard to single use product use, solid waste disposal and composting, and have started to think about these goals as part of their school improvement plans and through projects and other curricular offerings. There may also eventually be a Mass DEP mandate for the Westford Public schools to compost food waste. They have a great head start with Westford Community Compost , a volunteer organization, which has developed a very successful food waste composting program at Westford Academy. This program, run in conjunction with school staff and students, the Agricultural Commission and the Westford Cemetery Department (which provides leaves for carbon) could be used as a model for additional schools and buildings in town.
When an economic development staff person is hired, it is hoped that this new staff member will join the solid waste reduction team, helping to conduct outreach and address obstacles to waste reduction in the business community.
Westford Climate Action, as in all things climate, is also a valuable partner in waste reduction efforts.
Potential Avenues to Success
As a community, Westford could also develop a non profit zero waste collaborative and town wide Zero Waste resolution, following Lexington's example, as an avenue for accelerating progress toward Roadmap goals and Zero Waste.