5 Tips for a “Green” BBQ!

Are you planning to fire up the grill while celebrating the red, white, and blue this 4th of July?

Here are five things you can do to reduce waste and consumption for a great, green party.

1) Invest in a set of reusable, non-breakable plates and cups. A set of sturdy but lightweight plastic plates and cups is a great alternative to single-use options and isn’t fragile like regular ceramic and glass sets.

2) B.Y.O. Fork and Knife: Ask your guests to bring their own utensils. This reduces plastic consumption while also reducing your dish washing. Bonus: No risk of flimsy fork tines snapping off!

3) Encourage your guests to sort their waste by having separate, labeled barrels for recycling, compost, and trash. Drum up interest in this activity by also offering a tour of your backyard compost set-up!

4) Avoid single-serving cans and bottles if you can. Consider larger options, like liter and gallon bottles of juice and soda, or put out homemade beverages like pitchers of lemonade and iced tea. If you’ll be serving beer, look into small local breweries, which often offer “growlers”—64 oz. glass bottles that can be refilled repeatedly or returned and then reused by someone else.

5) If you’re leaving out a buffet, don’t cover the dishes with plastic wrap. To keep bugs out of the food, try laying cheese cloth over the bowls. For plates, you can also find small mesh umbrellas that are specially made for this task. If neither of these is an option for you, then use aluminum foil; it can be rinsed off and recycled once all the food is gone.

These are just a few ways you can change things up to cut down on trash. Use your imagination while planning to see what else you can come up with, and share your favorite ideas in the comments section!

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What to do with plastic bags?

Plastic bags are a growing concern for communities in Massachusetts and across the country.  To date, 11 communities in Massachusetts and more than 200 cities and towns nationally have enacted laws to limit or ban plastic bags.

Why are plastic bags a big problem?

  • We use A LOT of them: 326 per person each year, for a total of more than 100 billion bags used annually in the US. Plastic bags are used for about 12 minutes, on average.
  • Most plastic bags don’t get recycled – only 5%.  The other 95% end up littering our streets, polluting our water ways, killing marine life, or landfilled.
  • Well-meaning people try to recycle plastic bags in their curbside bin, but the bags clog the machinery at the recycling facility.  This slows down processing and drives up costs.Plastic Bag Picture for Blog Post 1

What can you do?

  • Use fewer plastic bags. If you don’t need a bag for one or two items, tell the cashier “no, thanks” when they bag your purchase.  Get into the habit of bringing your own reusable bags to the store.
  • Bring plastic bags to a drop-off location for recycling. Convenient options in Melrose are Shaw’s and Whole Foods, and CVS will begin taking plastic bags for recycling later in 2015.
  • Recycle more than just plastic bags. You can recycle a wide range of thin-film plastic material at the same drop off locations that take bags.  Bring your newspaper bags, dry cleaning bags, bread bags, and the plastic shrink-wrap used on bulk items like paper towels, toilet paper, and beverage containers.
  • Don’t put plastic bags or other thin-film plastics in your curbside bin.

Want to know what plastic bags and other thin-film plastics are recycled into?  Composite decking material is the most common use, as well as garden products, crates, buckets, pallets, and piping.

Let’s work together in Melrose to use fewer plastic bags and other thin film plastic, and recycle the ones that we do use.  It’s easy, keeps our community cleaner, helps keep waste disposal costs down, and prevents pollution.

The Recycling Committee will be at the Sally Frank’s Farmers’ Market at Bowden Park on W. Emerson St. on June 25 to promote Bring Your Own Bag (BYOB) Day! The committee’s table will have information about reducing the use of single use bags and recycling plastic bags and film. There will also be a game and free raffle prizes! Stop by between 1 pm – 7 pm to check it out and remember to BYOB!

Answer our monthly recycling question to be entered into a raffle for a set of 4 reusable grocery bags. Congratulations to Karen H. for winning our last raffle!

Win these reuseable bags!

Win these reusable bags!

Students to the (food) rescue through Next Meal

By George Stubbs

Estimates of the amount of food that goes to waste in the United States are upwards of 40% of the food supply—a shocking total that has attracted the attention of cities and states around the country, including Massachusetts, and placed food waste at the top of the list of those fractions of our municipal solid waste that must be diverted from landfills.

Popular options for food (or “organic”) waste diversion are composting and energy generation. Certain organic wastes are ideal for creating new soil amendment products, and composting is becoming more popular in cities, towns, schools, and even individual households. At the same time, decomposing organic matter also generates a biogas that can be used as an energy source, and landfills and wastewater treatment plants are capturing that biogas to do just that.

Those aren’t the only options. Indeed, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency places one other option at the top of the organic waste management hierarchy—“repurposing” or “rescuing” food that’s discarded by stores, restaurants, and other entities but is still edible and can be donated to food banks.

Young people around the country are riding a wave of inspiration and taking up this challenge—including some enterprise students right here in Melrose. About a year ago, Isaac Pacor, a Melrose resident and student at St. John’s Preparatory Academy, heard a podcast by a high-school senior in California named Camille Posard (she’s now attending UCLA), who had started up her own food rescue. Her operation, the non-profit Donate, Don’t Dump (www.donatedontdump.org), was one of the first organizations of its kind and has become an award-winning and nationally recognized non-profit working in the food rescue arena. The mission resonated with Isaac: Why not do something similar here in Massachusetts.

Isaac posted an Instagram through the city of Melrose indicating his interest in starting up such a group, and the idea inspired a big response. The result of subsequent conversations and e-mails was the formation by Isaac and seven other students at St. John’s and Melrose High School—Jenna  Santos, Sean Prendergast, Olivia Writtenburg, Lily Russel, Yvanne Nagasa, Devin Castano, and Tess Castergine—of Next Meal, an organization dedicated to rescuing edible food that would otherwise have been tossed and donating it to food pantries in area.

The fledgling group first developed a mission statement:

“Next Meal is an up-and-coming, soon-to-be non-profit organization dedicated to reducing hunger nationwide and educating the public about the multiple effects that food waste has on America. We hope that by collecting healthy, rescued food—food that would otherwise be thrown away—from supermarkets, restaurants, and schools, and redistributing it to local food pantries, we will make a difference in the lives of those who need it most.”

For various reasons, the group decided not to become one of the chapters of Donate, Don’t Dump, but instead is pursuing independent non-profit status. That’s a lengthy process that’s currently consuming much of the group’s time, Isaac acknowledges, but he and his core group hope to achieve that status by September.

In the meantime, Next Meal has been visiting food pantries and is developing an initial relationship with A Servant’s Heart, a food pantry operated out of Faith Evangelical Church here in Melrose. It is also contacting elementary schools in Melrose to explore the potential for setting up food sorting and collection systems and food-drive operations. The idea would be for the Next Meal team to swing buy on a daily basis, pick up the collected food, and deliver it to food pantries like A Servant’s Heart.

Isaac acknowledges that making Next Meal a sustainable operation is a big concern. After all, he and his team do plan to graduate from high school and move on with the next steps in their lives. That’s one reason why Next Meal has chosen to work initially with the schools—in addition to the fact that schools generate a fair quantity of recoverable food. “This is an effort to inspire students and get them involved at a young age,” says Isaac. The Melrose Veterans Memorial Middle School, for example, has established an environment-oriented club that has become quite strong and active. “We hope to leverage relationships like that one.”

The students at Next Meal have energy, brains, and inspiration on their side, but they’d still welcome the help and support of others. If you are interested in providing some support, or just in finding out more about the group, contact the group via Facebook or its e-mail address at nextmealmelrose@gmail.com.

In the meantime: Go Next Meal!

Top 10 Things You May Not Know About Recycling in Melrose

By: Cheryl Leary 

1) In FY2014, Melrose threw out an average of 1,900 pounds of trash per household!  We’re working hard to change that, and you can help by thinking twice when throwing things away.

2) Recycling saves Melrose money; and with our new single-stream weekly pickup, it’s easier than ever. The cost is less for the hauler to send all our recyclable items into the recycling stream than to send them to the incinerator. So when you recycle, not only are you saving the planet one bottle at a time, you are also saving our pocketbooks!

Swap Day Volunteers

Swap Day Volunteers

3) Many items which you cannot throw in your single stream recycling barrel can be recycled at events throughout the year. For example, there are recycling events for Styrofoam, household hazardous waste, plastic bags, paper shredding, electronics, metal items, mattresses and more. We also host events throughout the year to increase reusing. Check out our Annual Swap Day on September 26 to breathe new life into your old goods, and take a free treasure hunt through others’ gently used items.

4) Plastic bags in curbside recycling is our #1 issue. They clog up the machines which process the recycling, and negates the positive impact of recycling other items. Please recycle plastic bags each time you visit the grocery store, or better yet, bring along a reusable bag.

Plastic Bag Picture for Blog Post 1

5) There are many items you may throw in the trash today which can be recycled. For example, make sure to recycle: the non-greasy part of pizza boxes, aluminum foil, pie plates and milk/juice cartons. But please, don’t put hot beverage cups, paper towels and straws in the recycling barrel – those go in the trash. Remember to rinse all food containers before placing them in your recycling barrel.

cartons (2)

Many types of cartons can be placed in your curbside recycling bin!

6) Recycling curbside or at a Melrose scheduled event are not your only options to dispose of certain items. For example, electronics can be dropped off at Best Buy for free. The DPW also takes them for a fee. Have Styrofoam, but our next event is too far away? Check out ReFoamIt for other drop off locations.

7) Residents are allowed to place one bulky item in their trash each week. But, instead of throwing away old furniture, give it new life through donation. For example, the Salvation Army in Saugus will pick up gently used furniture for free.

8) The Melrose Recycling Committee’s website is packed with useful information such as the Recyclopedia (an a-z guide of how to recycle items), event calendars and information, project updates, photos and much more!

9) Yes, what you put in your recycling barrel DOES get recycled, and does not get wasted! In fact, Melrose’s recyclables get sent to JRM GreenWorks recycling facility in Peabody. The sorting process is very interesting and we hope to take a tour soon so the community can see what happens after the recycling is picked up curbside. Sign up for the monthly newsletter to learn more about this and the other exciting news.

10) Melrose has an awesome committee of dedicated volunteers whose goals are to reduce waste, increase recycling, and educate the public. The committee achieves its goals by serving as a resource and advocate to help residents, institutions and visitors reduce their environmental impact, save money and keep Melrose beautiful.  The committee works directly with city officials to improve the solid waste and recycling programs in cost-effective and easy to implement ways. If you would like to join or learn how to get involved, contact the committee here.

What additional information would you like to know, which would encourage you to recycle more? Let us know HERE and you will be entered in a raffle for a set of 4 free reusable grocery bags!