Green Bag program reduces trash, increases recycling

by Town Reminder

By Kristin Will
Staff Writer

SOUTH HADLEY –The Green Bag program has reduced the amount of trash residents toss yearly by 17 percent and upped recycling by four percent since its inception last July.
Total tonnage of trash has gone down by 713 tons compared to last year’s number of 4,204 tons. Dually, South Hadley recycled 1,491 tons of trash – 61 tons (four percent) more than last year.
“Those are very good numbers,” said Department of Public Works [DPW] Superintendent James Reidy. While residents currently don’t pay a fee to dispose of trash because of the landfill hosted by the town, Reidy said if the DPW had charged to dispose of trash last year, South Hadley would have saved $50,000 with the reduction in waste via the Green Bag program.
In 2007, a Solid Waste Advisory Committee [SWAC] was formed and charged with researching trash options for when the landfill’s capacity to accept trash expires and subsequently closes. Over the course of one year, SWAC met and reviewed all trash-related issues. They decided a pay-as-you-throw program would most benefit the town while simultaneously teach residents to reduce their waste by recycling as much as possible. In July of 2011, the program was implemented and residents switched over to using the required small or large green bags to dispose of their trash.
“I’ve certainly seen a reduction in our trash,” said Reidy. “All in all, the implementation went very well.”
Residents were given a grace period of about four weeks to get into the swing of the new trash disposal system. One fear, Reidy said apprehensive residents had, was a spike in illegal dumping with the program. “We really haven’t seen that,” he said. “Beyond those first two to four weeks, people got used to the program.”
Trash in any other bag than the green bags is not picked up and is labeled with a sticker explaining why the reason why it wasn’t accepted. Trash bags that are too heavy also generate a sticker notifying the resident of the issue, but are accepted if in the correct bag.
“A lot of folks are saying they’re saving money,” said Reidy. “It certainly did give people the thought they should start recycling.”
As for why the amount of recycling tonnage was not closer to the amount of less trash tossed, Reidy said South Hadley residents, for the most part, were already recycling well. Additionally, the recycling total is calculated by tonnage, not volume. Nationwide, companies are making efforts to use less plastic in their containers and packaging as well as thinner boxes. Reidy figures the four percent recycling increase was generated by residents who were not recycling whatsoever.
“I can’t complain,” he said about the program. “For a program like this, which is a pretty big change, people adapted very quickly.”
He doesn’t anticipate any major changes to the program in the future. Currently, a pilot program is being conducted using a new type of trash bag. Called a wave top bag, this trash bag doesn’t have strings to close the bag. Rather, it has four plastic flaps. Seventy people participated in the program, on which the DPW and Recycling Center are still compiling data. Reidy said it’s too early to tell if the DPW will make a switch. Prices of the trash bags will remain the same, at .50 cents per small bag and $1 per large bag.
“All in all I’m certainly happy about the program,” said Reidy. “I think the town should be proud of the job they did on this.”