Hamilton’s Curbside Organics Program


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Municipal Workshop- Reaching Towards Zero Waste: Gretel Clark, Chair of Hamilton's Recycling Committee presents Hamilton as a case study for it's implementation of recycling and diversion of organics.

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  • I am sure I am talking to the choir to point out that organics, at least for a small town like mine, comprise a third to almost one half of our solid waste. I read somewhere that organic material going to a landfill and incinerators creates about 40% of our world’s greenhouse gases. What a waste, when it should go back into the earth to create healthy soils, and in the process of decomposing, create clean renewable energy!
  • I am here to tell you about how a small town, 30 miles north of Boston came to be the first town east of Michigan to have a town-wide municipally supported weekly collection of all of its resident’s organic matter.   (New slide) With that in mind, I will tell you Hamilton’s story, of how the town has come to be a composting town. I take some comfort in knowing that there are a number of you here who are interested in seeing towns supporting weekly hauling for their residents’ “compostable matter.” So this is how it happened.
  • I Hamilton is 30 miles north of Boston. It is semi rural, covers about 15 square mile, has 2600 households or a little more than 8,000 residents. This town’s trashing history provides an example to communities that care about their contribution to the environment and are struggling to meet the needs of their towns’ budget.
  • To start, keep in mind that Mass DEP has found that the average household produces one ton of solid waste annually. By “waste” I mean that waste that is not recycled.In 2006, before Hamilton turned its attention to how efficiently it’s residents were recycling, Hamiltonians were producing close to 1.22 tons of solid waste annually. Hamilton then went through some years changing trash programs, and in the 6 years since then, residents now produce less than half a ton of solid waste per year, and recycling over 50% of total waste. Of that, currently, 10.56% is kitchen (organic) waste that goes to a composting facility. We expect that number to rise. Now, let’s back up and take a look at how this unlikely town got its residents to reduce its overall trash, and increase its recycling so dramatically; AND why it wears the crown as the first town east of Michigan to provide all its residents the weekly service of hauling away their organic waste to be composted.
  • “In 2006 when recycling was totally optional, Hamilton’s trash “tons of solid waste per household” were an astounding 1.22.”
  • “ In 2007 Blue recycle boxes were distributed for families to start recycling paper, cardboard and glass, plastic and metal that were to be taken out of the solid waste stream.. Tons of solid waste per Household (TPH) came down to 1.02 .” That year, Hamilton’s Selectmen initiated an Enhanced Waste Ban Enforcement, but recycling was still largely left up to the residents. However, the town’s TPH dropped 10% during the first 12 months of this program to 0.96.
  • The local League of Women Voters did a study of recycling programs and found the best all round program, financially and environmentally to be a full Pay As You Throw program: i.e. offering residents unlimited free recycling while putting a charge on any un-recycled material (solid waste.) The study prompted the town Selectmen to appoint a (volunteer) Recycle Committee—that after a year or so of deliberation, convinced the Selectmen that a “Waste Reduction” program (allowing one free 33 gallon barrel of solid waste/week) would be the most feasible to “sell” to the townspeople. The proposal was passed by Town Meeting Vote and went into effect March of 2008. This time, the town’s solid waste tonnage dropped 34% with an average TPH of 0.70.
  • In early 2009, getting our TPH down and recycling rate up had become a challenge to the Recycle Committee. Eliminating organics from the solid waste stream became the next target for the Recycle Committee. With the encouragement and free services of a local composter and his hauler, the committee recruited 75 households to participate in a pilot program for 8 weeks. We were able to document that 10-12 lbs/household/week was diverted from the solid waste stream (i.e.1/3-1/2 a family’s weekly trash weight). A survey of the participants found a high level of enthusiasm and a desire to continue even if participants had to pay for the service. Moreover, the implications for hauling and tipping cost savings were now clear.
  • So we launched an all-out recruiting campaign, explaining how the compost program would work, what people could put in their compost bins, offering free bins (both counter top and curbside) to the first 500 households that should sign up, charging a year’s fee --$75--of weekly pick up (that amounted to $6.25/month) and promising free grade #1 compost to all participants. We sat outside all public events, athletic events, town meetings with sign-up tables and our poster for all to see. Some Boy Scouts, working on their Eagle badges stepped forth to help, as did HW Green, a local environmental group.
  • In 2010 the second pilot was initiated with over 600 families in both Hamilton and Wenham. The hauling and composting was still done by outside contractors at an annual cost of $46,000—which the participants paid for.
  • As the small green bins appeared on our streets, people wanted to know what they were about. We were quick to talk in the public media about “Green Bin Envy” accepting participants as they stepped forward to join. Our composter, Peter Britton of Brick Ends Farm, purchased 500 stickers that went on our composters 13 gallon green bins to help advertise our exciting program, with a phone number on it for people to call for more information. It had been set when our first Waste Reduction program went into effect up as our Town’s Trash Hot Line--to divert angry calls from the town’s DPW office to gently bring people around..
  • Meanwhile, the Town’s recycling and trash hauler, (Hiltz) was watching this development. He and I had been talking almost weekly. Wanting to be ahead of the curve in hauling services, he had a special split body truck built for his company that at minimal additional cost, ($16,000) could pick up the organic waste and the recyclables with the same truck, eliminating the need for a special garbage truck for the organics.
  • In April of 2012, Hamilton instituted a new trash program, called SMART: Save Money As you Recycle Trash.” The Selectmen voted 3-2 to offer residents weekly organics hauling, weekly single-stream recycling (paper/cardboard/glass/plastic/metal), and BI-WEEKLY free solid waste pick up of one 35 gallon bin. Overflow of solid waste – meaning “over the allowed once-every-other-week 35 gallon barrel,” had to be in official town bags (costing $1.75 eachIncluding 3 months before the SMART program was initiated, solid waste trash decreased 30% and recycling was increased 24%. As you can see from the chart: with the whole town, now able to recycle its organic materials. (about half are actually participating) recycling organics has taken more than 10% of the tons out of the solid waste stream and saved the town more than $25,000 in the first year. And best of all, our TPH is down below .50 to .48!
  • What steps are important for bringing a town into a Curbside Organics program?A hauler Find a hauler and composter nearby.A composterA pilot program The demonstration effect of a pilot is very important for a town to see how easy it is to implement a compost program. Town leaders need to see how they can save money for the townKeep good records Pounds/household Participation rate Participant testimonialsCourt political leaders since they are going to be the ones who make it happen. Be sure one or all participate in the pilot program.Institute a PAYT program Since you don’t have the tipping fees driving the cost for your town, experience and all studies have shown that cities and towns that implement Pay As You Throw programs have the highest recycling rate. Charge a substantial rate for the overage bags I know of towns that charge $5.00 for each bag one must buy for their solid waste. This is the most effective way to motivate residents to find ways to cut down on their solid waste.A crew of dedicated, enthusiastic, unconquerable organizers An absolute must. It takes a vision, fortitude and perseveranceA trash Hot Line A volunteer can take the calls. A strong education program In addition to the usual flyers, news media, etc. be sure residents are made aware that by not recycling as much as possible, they are forcing their neighbors to pay for their non-participation (since the costs are borne by property taxes—especially if there is no form of a PAYT program.) Find funding to provide families with appropriate bins. The State DEP and some local benefactors were our sugar daddies for the pilot programs.Implement a bi-weekly solid waste collection program. This drives residents to maximize their recycling, especially if it is being picked up weekly along with the compost, And if free solid waste is picked up only every other, residents are not going to want to keep their “garbage” for two weeks.Free compost is a real deal for gardeners.
  • What lessons have we learned that we can pass on to communities thinking of implementing a curbside composting program?Larvae in hot summer months. Put anything that will attract flies (meat and bones and shells) in paper bag in freezer until collection day.Freezing in cold winter months. Bring bins into house or garage the night before collection.Animals trying to get into the bin: spray vinegar around mouth of bin; use compostable bags inside the bin..The “ick” factor for some. Line bins with newspaper, clean weekly, use compostable bags in the bins.
  • Hamilton’s Curbside Organics Program

    1. 1. HAMILTON’S CURBSIDEORGANICS PROGRAMGretel ClarkRecycle Committee Chair,Hamilton, MA
    2. 2. Town of Hamilton30 miles north ofBoston on Cape AnnTipping Trash $70/ton
    3. 3. Town of HamiltonSemi rural, conservative,New England town(15 square miles)2,400 householdsA little more than 8,000residents
    4. 4. Some Trashy Facts…
    5. 5. 2006: Status Quo050010001500200025003000350040004500CYO6 CY07 CY08 CY09 CY10 CY11 CY12Solid Waste TonsOrganicsRecycling Tons
    6. 6. 2007: State’s solid waste bansimplemented but not enforced.050010001500200025003000350040004500CYO6 CY07 CY08 CY09 CY10 CY11 CY12Solid Waste TonsOrganicsRecycling Tons
    7. 7. 2008: Initial Waste Reduction Program050010001500200025003000350040004500CYO6 CY07 CY08 CY09 CY10 CY11 CY12Solid Waste TonsOrganicsRecycling Tons
    8. 8. 2009: First Pilot Organics Program (75families)050010001500200025003000350040004500CYO6 CY07 CY08 CY09 CY10 CY11 CY12Solid Waste TonsOrganicsRecycling Tons
    9. 9. 2010: Second Pilot Organics Program(600 families)050010001500200025003000350040004500CYO6 CY07 CY08 CY09 CY10 CY11 CY12Solid Waste TonsOrganicsRecycling Tons
    10. 10. 2011: Continuation of second pilot050010001500200025003000350040004500CYO6 CY07 CY08 CY09 CY10 CY11 CY12Solid Waste TonsOrganicsRecycling Tons
    11. 11. 2012: New SMART Trash ProgramInstituted050010001500200025003000350040004500CYO6 CY07 CY08 CY09 CY10 CY11 CY12Solid Waste TonsOrganicsRecycling Tons
    12. 12. Keys to Success• Find a hauler• Find a composter• Design a pilot program• Keep good records• Court political leaders• Institute a PAYT program• Gather a crew of dedicated enthusiastic unconquerableorganizers• Establish a Trash Hot Line• Put together a strong education program• Implement bi-weekly solid waste collection program• Offer free compost to participants
    13. 13. Lessons Learned• People will pay fororganic collection• Organics are ~ ½of trash weight/hh• Larvae in hotsummer months• Freezing in coldwinter months• Animal control• Overcoming the“ick” factor
    14. 14. Benefits To The Town• Trash costs can be cut in half• New bag revenue• Longer term plans: to install an anaerobic digester on thelandfill site