Zero Waste Committee Presents Recommendations to Councilors

At the Town Council meeting on Tuesday, May 5, the Winthrop Zero Waste Committee presented a list of recommendations for how Winthrop can improve its solid waste management.

Town Manager Austin Faison established the committee last September to provide a report on the Town’s solid waste removal program. This is the third solid waste study Faison has realized in his career.

“Municipalities bear the brunt of the costs associated with removal, and there is a real opportunity for a reduction in solid waste in Winthrop,” he told the Transcript. “The main goal is to reduce the amount of waste that goes into the bins, which will reduce costs.”

The Environment Protection Agency (EPA) describes solid waste as “any garbage or refuse, sludge from a wastewater treatment plant, water supply treatment plant, or air pollution control facility and other discarded material, resulting from industrial, commercial, mining, and agricultural operations, and from community activities.” Although it is called solid waste, it can also be in liquid, semi-solid or contained gaseous forms.

Committee members Rosalind Mott, Charles Southworth and Carol Walker met with industry professionals to identify areas for improvement in the Town’s waste management system. It then came up with six core recommendations with the goal of reducing waste output, several of which have measurable financial and educational benefits to the community.

Extend Waste Removal Contract

Winthrop is currently under a twenty-year contract with Capitol Waste for trash and recycling pickup. It expires in 2020 and the Town should renegotiate the rate or seek another vendor that will cost less.

Educate the Community

Winthrop should realize a zero waste campaign to inform and engage the community.

“Creating an awareness and attitude of community responsibility for cleanliness in the town is desirable,” reads the report. It cites the water-related activities enjoyed by residents are less attractive “when trash and debris float into the experience.”

Educate Students

A waste reduction campaign aimed at students should also be realized in the Winthrop schools. Engaging students is essential to guarantee that households participate in waste reduction efforts. Neighboring communities have successfully implemented such programs. Winthrop should identify collaborators among student groups, the school department and other local organizations.

Secure Grant Funding

The Town should explore options for state and grant funding. The Sustainable Materials Recovery Program municipal grant supports composting, recycling and hazardous waste disposal, among other things. Existing grants are project-specific and range from $2,800 to $260,000. Faison emphasized that the amount of grant funding hinges on how rigorous the town is willing to be in its zero waste commitment. However, deadlines are rapidly approaching for securing funding for 2020.

Hire a Company to Manage the Town’s Compost pile

Winthrop pays $60,000 annually to maintain its municipal compost pile. This covers the cost of removal, compression, staffing and operations. Most compost is not used locally and is instead transferred at the town’s expense to other locations. Black Earth Composting (BEC) is willing to manage the compost pile at no cost, provided they get a workspace at the Department of Public Works. Collaborating with BEC would qualify the town for certain grants. The Town should work with BEC to educate the community about composting and to sign up residents.

Create a Textile Recycling Program

Textiles currently count for up to fifteen percent of the solid waste stream. Simple Waste’s Textile Recycling Program offers free curbside pickup of textiles, flatware and reusable goods. Participation in this program qualifies the town for specific grants.

Organize Regular Events

Winthrop should organize periodic waste reduction efforts, such as collections for hazardous waste, motor oil, mattresses and other materials that clog the waste stream. The associated cost would be relatively minor and efforts can be spearheaded by volunteer organizations such as the Elks Club and the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

The committee believes these recommendations will be most effective when adopted collectively, but the council can choose to implement them individually as well. The committee will continue to work with the Town Manager’s office as well as the Winthrop Public Schools and other community groups to explore solutions.

The committee’s report was initially submitted to council members in March, but the presentation took a back seat to the more pressing COVID-19 pandemic response. Councilwoman Tracy Honan also contributed to the report.

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