Recently a Green Newton reader asked, “Do you know the status of recycling in Newton? Are our recyclables actually going somewhere to be recycled and, if so, where?” Following is information from the newsletter of the Newton Sustainable Materials Management Division, Green Cart Chronicle (Summer 2019):

Recycling is Still Alive

China’s import restrictions have been sensationalized as the end of recycling in major news outlets since early 2018. This stems from the policy change from China that banned the import of most recyclable materials unless they meet the strict contamination rate of less than 0.5%.

It is true that global recyclables markets have been significantly disrupted. Recyclers had to seek out new buyers and prices have tumbled. This has left many wondering whether or not we should continue to recycle. Fear not ! Recycling is still alive!

Despite concerns over the reduced demand for recyclables, it is important to remember that the recycling industry is based on commodity markets which are cyclical. Over the last 50 years, commodity prices have increased and decreased. Each time prices dropped, the media proclaimed the death of recycling. However, each time, recycling markets revived and grew stronger.

China’s policy has resulted in the diversion of recyclable materials to other markets and has also led to recent private sector investments in domestic paper and plastic mills. Moving forward, please continue to reduce, then reuse, and then recycle all accepted materials to ensure the conservation of natural resources. Plus, it still costs less in Newton to recycle than to put things in the trash.

When in Doubt, throw it out!

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According to the Newton Sustainable Materials Management website, here’s what happens to the recyclables that are collected:

Once your recyclables are picked up curbside, they are transported by Waste Management to their materials recovery facility located in Avon, MA. Here, all materials are single streamed, sorted, baled, and sent to different markets.

VIRTUAL TOUR: In October 2013, we took a tour of one of WM Recycle America’s plants. 

Want to know more?

Once your trash is picked up curbside, it is transported by Waste Management to Wheelabrator-Millbury, a waste-to-energy facility located in Millbury, MA.

The Millbury facility, which is owned and operated by Wheelabrator Technologies, Inc., processes up to 1500 tons per day of municipal solid waste from northeastern Massachusetts. At full capacity, the plant can generate more than 38,000 kilowatts of electrical energy for sale to New England Power Company. This is the equivalent of supplying all of the electrical needs of 47,000 homes.