Melrose Recycling Committee Goals for the Melrose 10-Year Plan

As part of the city’s process of developing its next 10-year master plan, the groups in Sustainable Melrose were invited to contribute statements about their goals and visions for the city. As part of Sustainable Melrose, the Melrose Recycling Committee developed a statement of goals during the summer of 2016. The text of that statement follows.

Economic development over the last several years in China, India, and other countries around the world has raised standards of living for tens, if not hundreds, of millions of people and has thus substantially raised the rates of consumption of material goods worldwide. This increasing consumption is placing extreme pressures on our natural resources, from forests, croplands, and metal/mineral resources to fisheries and freshwater supplies. In the United States, where material consumption rates are already extremely high, cities and towns face thus face increasing pressures, in light of this escalating competition for access to the world’s resources, to consume goods in a more sustainable manner. Melrose is no different. Our city must make a more concerted effort to pursue and ensure prosperity in a way that recognizes these severe resource constraints.

With these constraints in mind, the Melrose Recycling Committee (MRC), a volunteer organization dedicated to educating the public about the benefits of waste reduction and recycling, has developed a set of goals that, the committee believes, should be a component of the city’s forthcoming 10-year master plan. These goals range widely in the level of effort that will be required to achieve them, and all will require strong commitment on the part of the city government and the Department of Public Works—which has already demonstrated a high level of commitment to increasing recycling in the city—as well as the residents of the city. MRC believes, however, that all these goals are doable. Indeed, many are achievable well within the 10-year timeframe of the master plan.

In the longer run, these targets fall under an over-arching, aspirational goal of becoming a zero-waste city. In this endeavor, Melrose can follow the lead of other cities that are pursuing the same goal, and still take the opportunity to be a leader in its own right.

The goals are as follows:

1)      Increase household recycling rates to 80% of all households within three years and to 90% within six years. A recent survey conducted by DPW and MRC found that the percentage of households in the city that are recycling increased from 67% in 2013 to 73% in 2016. The survey also identified under-performing wards. MRC believes that targeting these wards, with the cooperation of the appropriate alderman, could help boost recycling rates and achieve the stated goals.

2)      Decrease the generation of municipal solid waste city-wide by 10% over the next three years, as a key step towards becoming a zero-waste community.

3)      Make recycling easily available to all Melrose residents regardless of their living situation (e.g., household, apartment dwelling), encourage city departments (including the schools) to increase and expand waste reduction and recycling programs, and—as a top priority—urge more stringent enforcement of existing state waste bans and recycling requirements.

4)      Promote waste reduction, reuse, and recycling among the city’s residents and businesses. As part of this goal, the city should build a sense of financial literacy around the costs and benefits of waste diversion. Along these lines, the city should revisit the viability of, and develop and clarify the financial incentives for, a pay-as-you-throw (PAYT) program in Melrose.

5)      Make the business case, and develop incentives, for Melrose businesses to recycle. Find a champion to advocate for and develop the city’s Green Business Initiative, and make collaboration with the local Chamber of Commerce a top priority.

6)      Continue the city’s progress in finding viable disposal/reuse/recycling options for hard-to-recycle products and materials (e.g., hard plastics, textiles), and support efforts to ban or restrict the use of items such as single-use plastic bags, water bottles, and Styrofoam where appropriate.

7)      Address food waste reduction in a more vigorous fashion. Provide composting options for all citizens, whether through their own bins or a municipally sponsored composting option (e.g., expanding the yard waste facility on Rte. 99 to handle food waste). Conduct a pilot program to evaluate the potential for food waste diversion through curbside collection. And—recognizing that state laws regarding organic wastes are likely to grow ever more stringent and target businesses and institutions, work proactively with businesses and institutions in Melrose to ensure that responsible food-waste disposal options are available.

8)      Encourage better upkeep of parks and other public spaces in Melrose by the city and its residents. Develop and deploy more effective recycling facilities in parks and public spaces.

The Melrose Recycling Committee is group of resident 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.