waste calendar
Recycling calendar.

The annual Town of Arlington guide to the recycling and trash is available online at arlingtonma.gov/recycle.

Printed copies are being mailed in July, so be on the lookout for the blue and green mailer.

Residents should save this handy reference guide to track holiday collection delays.

Also listed are household hazardous-waste collections (eight a year in Lexington) and the Arlington Recycling Center dates for medical sharps collections (four a year) and secure document shredding (three a year).

Upcoming dates of interest

Collection is delayed for the Independence Day holiday on July Fourth, with Thursday’s collection on Friday and Friday’s collection on Saturday.

The July Recycling Center takes place on a Sunday for the first time, on July 14, from 9 a.m. to noon. By holding one Sunday event annually, the town hopes to better accommodate residents who work or observe faith traditions each Saturday.

From 1 to 4 p.m. July 14 residents are invited to roll up their sleeves to fix their broken items along with knowledgeable coaches at the Fixit Clinic, Thompson School Gym, 187 Everett St. More can be found in the news story at arlingtonma.gov/recycle.

Some recycling changes on the way

Those involved have renamed this year’s guide "Toward Zero Waste" to emphasize some of the additional activities the town will be encouraging.

While complete zero waste is aspirational, the name reflects a growing national trend to stop relying on basic curbside recycling to solve the rise in material waste at the consumer level.

Sharing, avoiding single-use items, purchasing durable goods, and making state-level policy changes that require take-back and repair are all strategies that reduce waste.

Recycling is in the national news lately and some of the messages are confusing and alarming. Be assured that while the business of recycling may be less profitable, there are still manufacturers who want to purchase the plastic, paper and cardboard, metals, and glass that we carefully separate out from our trash.

Fortunately for Arlington, town costs for recycling have remained consistent, yet we are planning for a future when they may rise.

Separate recycling from trash

Massachusetts has waste-ban laws that require we separate out our recycling from trash, so there will not be any interruption of service. A new state initiative seeks to make the rules for recycling easier for everyone, so Arlington has signed on to the RecycleSmart program.

Unfortunately, this means that cartons (milk, juice, soup) that were previously collected as mixed paper recycling can no longer be recycled. The town asks you to place these containers in the trash.

Another change to our curbside program is that shredded paper will no longer be collected as recycling and should instead be placed in the trash.

Anyone who visits the recycling sorting facility, called GreenWorks, witnesses what a mechanical and human effort it takes to sort the single-stream recycling back into the metal, glass, multiple plastic and paper/cardboard streams that each get baled and marketed separately.

GreenWorks has been struggling to keep shredded paper clean enough to market, so instead it ends up contributing to the residual trash at the end of the sorting process.

Residents who are interested in visiting the facility to see the operations in person, please email Recycling Coordinator Charlotte Milan: cmilan at town.arlington.ma.us.

Part of a larger system

While we know these changes are disappointing, Milan explains, the town is part of a much larger system of recycling creators and sorters. That whole system needs to work together to create cleaner raw materials that are of value to manufactures making new consumer items.

Going forward,  the town will make adjustments to its program in coordination with the MA RecycleSmart program, likely on an annual basis.

For additional recycling solutions in Massachusetts specifically, check out recyclesmart.org.

Good news for pizza boxes, fire extinguishers

Fortunately, RecycleSmart allows pizza boxes in curbside recycling. A little food oil/grease is acceptable, according to GreenWorks and the seven other recycling sorting facilities in Massachusetts.

Please be sure there is no food, waxy paper or plastic items in your cardboard pizza box. Very cheesy boxes should continue to be placed with the trash.

The town is adding household fire extinguisher collection at the Recycling Center events for a $5 each fee.

Alternatively, residents are welcome to discharge and disassemble their fire extinguishers at home, then bring them to the Recycling Center as scrap metal at no charge.

Discharging into a plastic bag (outdoors, not on a windy day) can be a great way to get a feel for what it’s like to use these important household safety tools. Online videos may offer reassuring instruction.

Taking bold steps

What else can we each do to work toward zero waste? Check out tools and household items from the Robbins Library’s Library of Things.

It’s free and available to anyone with a library card. More at robbinslibrary.org.

Swap your stuff. Together with the Facebook group called Everything Is Free in Arlington, a community clothing swap was embraced by hundreds of participants during Eco Week in April.

The town plans to repeat that in 2020 and add a fall swap Sunday, Nov. 3, at Thompson School, so save the date.

And on Saturday, May 16, there will be a townwide yard sale. Stay tuned.

Residents who are eager to take more action toward zero waste can take a major step by purchasing new items made from recycled content, such as household paper goods and office paper. Companies are now making toys and even clothing from what was once curbside recycled yogurt cups and water bottles.

The emerging circular economy can help bolster local jobs and remanufacturing, as well as reduce the amount of new raw materials we extract from the Earth. 

This news announcement was published Saturday, June 29, 2019.