Left In Lowell

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March 27, 2008

Yard Waste Pickup Starts - But!

by at 1:22 pm.

From the Department of Public Works:

Yard Waste containers are popping up on sidewalks near you. Curbside collection of yard waste officially starts Monday, March 31st. Collection, by Allied Waste, will occur on your neighborhood ‘trash day’. Our contract provides this service every week through your ‘last trash day of November’.

Diverting organic material from the incinerator is the Law! And makes fiscal sense. In 2007 Lowell sent 2,985 tons of yard waste to composting operations, saving the City over $207,000 in disposal cost.

It is preferred that you use paper Lawn & Leaf bags. However, grass, leaves and small brush (<3 ft smaller than 3 in thick) can be placed in a labeled barrel. YARD WASTE stickers are available at City Hall (Rm 34), DPW (1365 Middlesex St) or at the Health Dept (341 Pine St). Kindly do not place bags or barrels out prior to your trash day; we would like to keep sidewalks open for pedestrians. Should you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact this office.

It should be noted, that it is 1) illegal to put yard waste into the regular trash and 2) that the city composts yard waste. This saves room in landfills, saves us taxpayers a lot of money, and recycles that waste to useful soil. But, you could save taxpayers even more money! Why not compost your own yard waste, and all your non-meat food waste, yourself? Compost bins are sold at reduced cost (the expensive one is sold out, but the basic one, which I have, is available) via the city. Here’s the form to fill out (pdf).

Some easy and simple tips, all of which I myself employ, to reduce your trash and carbon footprint on this earth:

Most weeks, my husband and I produce less than one kitchen trash bag of waste. I think I’d like to get that down even further. The city helped a lot when it went to accepting all numbers of plastics. :) One of the things which really helped was paying more attention to paper recycling. So much packaging on everything! Putting all the chip cardboard (cereal boxes, etc) into your paper recycling seriously reduces your garbage waste.

So, what are your everyday tips for becoming sustainable?

(Update: Just found a cool link, will quote it and comment in the next section.)

Here’s some statistics on our garbage:

Of the 4.5 pounds produced daily per person, before recycling statistics are considered, the following statistics indicate how it breaks down:

Paper-34.2%- Which is mainly consisted of corrugated boxes and newspapers. Nearly half of that total ends up getting recycled.

So we could do significantly better recycling paper. That means you!

Food Scraps-11.9%- About a quarter of the food we consume and prepare gets tossed into the garbage and only 2% of that is composted.

A backyard composting pile can really help! If we could increase food composting to 25%, think of how much energy and money that could save us.

Plastics-11.8%- This can be found in seemingly every product these days, but the strongest contributor is packaging. All in all, only 5.7% of plastic garbage is recycled.

This is a no-brainer, especially with $110 oil. We should be increasing our capacity and our citizen responsibility for recycling plastic. But even better yet, we should be reducing the amount we use in the first place. Better packaging, the use of plastic replacements (biodegradable alternatives), getting rid of our use of plastic bags, all these things will keep costs down and help the environment.

Yard Waste-13.1%- From grass to leaves and tree trimmings much of this ends of in the dump or incinerated.

Wood-5.7%- Mostly old furniture, wood crates and pallets takes the cake here; a small portion is chipped into mulch.

Metals-7.6%- Durable goods such as appliances are the biggest source of the metal waste despite a strong 45% recycling rate for cans aluminum is also a significant source.

Glass-5.2%- The bottles and jars account for some odd 86% of discarded glass of that only one quarter is recycled and the rest is glass from electronics and furniture.

No yard waste should be going to landfills or incinerators, period, it should be composted. Glass is easy to recycle into use and therefore should also be banned from our waste stream. And I always thought that metals should all be recycled; after all, there’s a finite amount of metal on our planet just like there’s a finite amount of oil. It seems stupid to throw it out. We need better policies around appliance disposal as well.

Interesting, though rather depressing, garbage statistics. You can, however, feel good about yourself if you take some very simple actions to reduce your garbage footprint!

20 Responses to “Yard Waste Pickup Starts - But!”

  1. joe Says:

    Living on a city-scale lot, I have a lot of trouble keeping the green/brown ratio where it needs to be in my compost bin. For composting, you’re supposed to have equal amounts of fresh, soft green matter (food scraps, fresh lawn clippings) and dry, old brown waste (autumn leaves). The green stuff has a lot of nitrogen, and the brown has a lot of carbon. Or vice-versa. Anyway.

    I put a decent amount of waste paper into my bin to make up for the shortage of brown material.

  2. Lynne Says:

    Newspaper is good for that. At least the Sun might be useful for SOMEthing…

  3. Shawn Says:

    I’ld be a little nervous about food attracting rats, but the grass cuttings and cut tree limbs always get composted in a pile in the backyard.

    Of course.. us suburbanites have the space for that.

  4. waittilnextyr Says:

    The City Website for the Recycling Coordinator still lists April 7th as the start of yard waste pick-up. Can you provide the source of the earlier start week from the DPW?

  5. K-R-S Says:

    Shawn, I didn’t know Dracut had rats! ;0)
    That aside, at our first home in Lowell, we had a compost bin and utilized it for clippings and biodegradeable(sp?) food items (egg shells, coffee grounds, fruits, veggies, etc..).
    As for applaince disposal, there are a plethora of folks out there who will take your appliances for free and either scrap it for cash or rehab to resell at a discounted rate.
    Alas, a great way to recycle your household items (furniture, dishes, linens, clothing, baby gear, etc.), is to donate it to the Wish Project. I know, I know..a shameless plug!

  6. Kpem Says:

    “Alas, a great way to recycle your household items (furniture, dishes, linens, clothing, baby gear, etc.), is to donate it to the Wish Project. I know, I know..a shameless plug!”

    My husband went down to the Lowell wish project warehouse this past weekend to donate a (3) year old mattress. (we upsized) This would have been something that we would have thrown in the trash. It was in excellent condition with a cover on it. My husband was so impressed with the organization at the warehouse and the charity that he came home looking for things to donate. It really made us think about things that we throw out like shower curtains, towels, dishes, sheets etc. when we redecorate. We recycle our paper, milk cartons, cans but for some reason we toss these household goods. What a great way to recycle and help those in need. A double benefit. Please also check out their seasonal needs. We just received 7 easter baskets for easter gifts from people and put them away in case we can donate them next year. Also, please check out this months seasonal need:
    March - Diaper Drive and Newborn Birthday Baskets- (we welcome baby cribs, strollers and gear all year long). Big thanks to Hannafords Grocery Stores for their support of this important project. Purchase a pack of diapers while you are shopping at a Hannaford’s near you and they go to our clients.
    I think they were $6.99 at the store so if you skip the doritos and coke you can help someone out!

  7. K-R-S Says:

    Thanks kpem, always a softie for those that validate my plugs and more importantly, a great asset to the Merrimack Valley.
    As for Lowell recycling efforts, would love to see a “Zero Waste Day” which would naturally be combined with Haz Mat days in Lowell.
    Have spoken w/ the recycling coord. and receive a dozen reasons why this CAN’T be done.
    I want to know how we CAN do it and how other organizations can step in and make it happen.
    And would love to figure out, the cost benefit and the impact on our monthly, City Trash Bill.

  8. Kpem Says:

    A zero waste day would be great for the city. I found a good link for donations/recycling http://www.tewksbury.net/recycle/pdf%20files/Where%20Can%20I%20Give%20It%20%20Away.pdf

    The Lowell recycling newsletter introduced us to recycling and has made my husband a trashpicker. (I cant throw out a scrap of paper because you know how guys are when they decide to do something) The only question we have is what can you recycle? I know there is a generic list but somethings are just a gray area as relatively new recylers. ie: bread bags, paper plates(used), used sandwich bags, pizza boxes, dunkin donuts cups? We have diminished our trash down to diapers (I work 50 hours a week and just won’t do cloth), food product (Lynnes composting should help that), used food product such as sandwich bags, pizza boxes(Any suggestions?), and plastic bags for cat litter (This is a big issue because I can’t get cloth reusable shopping bags)

  9. Shawn Says:

    K-R-S.. lol.. I could name one or two…

    I would recommend, however that you be real careful with used furniture (I’m sure the Wish Project is already trained in this stuff, but people driving by a yard sale or seeing used furniture out at the curb may no be).

    I know one family in chelmsford who went through a bedbug infestation last year that took months to clean up and thousands of dollars in costs.

    Them little suckers are hard to eliminate..

  10. K-R-S Says:

    Kpem, clean bread bags and plastic shopping bags may be recycled at the grocery store. Neat little diddie, I just heard was that the grocers sell off their recycled bags and these eventually become “trex” Decking or park benches. DD cups can be recycled into the green bins.
    Used paper plates are a no no.
    Shawn, the furniture that is brought in, is sprayed down with a non toxic spray to address the issue that you had mentioned.
    At the end of April, there will be a Bed Bug Forum which will is being coordinated by CTI/HCEC and the City of Lowell Health Department. When I receive more info, I will post it. I’m sure you’re “itching” to attend!

  11. bobo Says:

    Combining Maz Mat day and other recycling at the same place is a logistical nightmare. You’d be amazed at how much non hazardous stuff people already bring (latex paint being a big one), slowing down the process quite a bit. Last spring the wait was extensive. And Haz Mat collection is already expensive (and sometimes dangerous to the workers). Good idea to recycle as much as possible, just maybe not by the same agencies at the same time. I can see Guenther’s point on that.

    I’m not on board with Haz Mat and ordinary material ever being combined. Getting the really dangerous stuff off the street, out of homes, keeping it out of the sewer system and groundwater is too important.

  12. Lynne Says:

    waittil: the source is copied and pasted from an email Gunther sent out.

  13. joe Says:

    DD cups can be recycled into the green bins.

    Are you sure? I thought they specifically said “no foam.”

  14. K-R-S Says:

    I thought the DD cups were as they have the symbol and they’ve never been kicked back to us.

  15. joe Says:

    Hmm, on the one hand, the Recycling Brochure (the “that the city lists” link above) sez “every container with a number 1-7. DD cups have a 6.

    OTOH, it also says NO STYROFOAM in big block letters.

    It also sez “rigid plastics.”

    Little help?

  16. Lynne Says:

    I just sent an inquiry…hopefully we all have an answer soon! I’ve often wondered about those labeled “PS” cups myself.

  17. joe Says:

    Me, too. I’ll let you know if I hear back.

  18. Lynne Says:

    I just did, and it’s all posted. :)

  19. K-R-S Says:

    Joe writes, “Little help? ”

    Oh, thank you, Great Guardian of the Green Containers”!

  20. joe Says:

    Yay Gunther!

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