In July of 2020, the Town of Tyngsborough began the Recycling IQ Curbside Education Awareness Program sponsored by a Recycling IQ Grant from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection. The grant provides funding to municipalities to undertake enhanced awareness and education campaigns around proper recycling with the goal of reducing contamination in the municipal recycling stream. Using these funds, the Town hired four part time cart inspectors, ran educational graphics in the Neighbor to Neighbor, replaced information stickers on most toters in town (work continues to capture them all), and sent informational mailers to residents. This was a group effort by the Sustainability Committee and Tyngsborough Board of Health.
The Recycling IQ Program provided an opportunity to educate residents and to work with them at the curb to clean up the quality of the recycling stream. Prior to undertaking this program, data showed that Tyngsborough’s recycling was significantly contaminated. An audit of Tyngsborough’s recycling quality in December of 2019 showed that 14.8% by weight of what residents were sending for processing were materials that were not accepted – contaminants to the recycling stream. During the initial weeks of Recycling IQ, Inspectors saw this first hand with 60% of carts being observed with some level of contamination. Contaminated loads can be rejected by the recycling plant and sent to a trash disposal facility. This results in additional charges and hefty fines being levied against the Town and its taxpayers.
During the program, cart checkers provided direct feedback at the curb, using Warning and Oops Tags and often by speaking directly with residents who were home during the inspections. Sustainability Committee members also fielded questions on social media and Town staff assisted residents by phone and email. The results of the program exceeded the expectations. By weeks 11 and 12, only 5% of recycling carts were contaminated, a 91% change from the baseline weeks. The Town is also pleased to see that Tyngsborough residents participate in recycling at a high level with 86% of residents putting a recycling cart out for collection each pickup.
This program will be winding down in the coming weeks, but the work will continue. Tyngsborough is in a strong position to continue to recycle in an appropriate manner and in a way that prevents the Town from seeing significant hikes in costs associated with trash and recycling due to contamination. You can continue to learn more about recycling appropriately by visiting the Town’s Trash & Recycling page.
Special thanks to the Recycling IQ Inspectors: Elizabeth Antanavica, Diana Keohane, Samantha Salvatore, and Brittany Segill.