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Free Service – Northampton Garbage Audits

GREEN Northampton is starting a free service available immediately to all businesses and residents in Northampton: Garbage Audits.

GREEN Northampton has formed teams of auditors to visit homes and offices and give informational and sometimes excavational exploration into garbage, recycling and other collections of objects that need a destination other than the landfill.

Mary Clark of Florence was among the first to receive an audit. “I found I could recycle or compost much more than I had thought. I learned which old appliances I could put in scrap metal rather than just throwing them away. The auditors answered my questions about things like whether I could recycle old Drano bottles (yes, if rinsed) or old videotapes (donate to the Got Books Box at the transfer station on Locust Street.) My waste basket literally went from full to half empty.

“The process,” continued Clark, “first you call GREEN Northampton.The audit team shows up at your house or business.You show the audit team your trash and recycling bins. The audit team dumps your trash onto a tarp, pulls out the recyclables, re-usables and compostables while you watch. You end up with less trash and a better understanding of what is reusable, recyclable, compostable and where things should go that should be buried at the landfill.”

The garbage audits are a variation on the energy audits that are part of the MassSave energy saving program in Massachusetts. In that program, homeowners can contact the Center for Ecological Technology (for homes with oil heat) or Honeywell (for homes that heat with gas) for free energy audits which result in recommendations on increasing the energy efficiency either by air sealing or added insulation. In GREEN Northampton’s program, homeowners can now request a free garbage and recycling audit to increase their recycling and lower their trash bill.

GREEN Northampton is working with Karen Bouquillon, Northampton DPWs Solid Waste Manager. Ms. Bouquillon, who is also on the advisory board at the MRF in Springfield, is Northampton’s ultimate say on defining recyclables. She is working with audit teams to insure that their analysis meets her gold standard of separation.

Are these recyclable? Metal soda bottle caps? YES! Metal lids from jars? YES! Paper envelopes with plastic windows? YES! If you can rip paper, it’s recyclable. Disposable plastic forks, knives, spoons and cups? NO!!! NO!! NO! Plastic bottle screw tops? NO!!! Black plastic deli containers? NO BLACK PLASTIC is recyclable. For many things like disposable plastic utensils and cups the best way to avoid their path to the landfill is not to buy or use them in the first place. Instead GREEN Northampton advises buying and using reusable plastic utensils and cups that can be used indefinitely and perhaps will never end up in the landfill.

Acoording to David Starr, co-founder of GREEN Northampton, “There’s lots of confusion about what is recyclable and what’s not recyclable. Experts don’t always agree. Our purpose is to provide a consistent voice on what is recyclable for the city of Northampton. This should tremendously increase compliance with the 1988 Northampton recycling ordinance that requires all businesses and residents to recycle all recyclable items. We feel the city of Northampton needs to commit more resources to educating the public. This is GREEN Northampton’s attempt to amplify the recycling message and divert as much solid waste from the landfill as possible. Our goal is to divert 90% of the solid waste stream from the landfill to prevent its closure. With increased recycling rates and aggressive composting, we could meet that goal. We reduced the food waste at the Jackson Street School cafeteria by 87% in just three weeks with no funding and just a few volunteers. Imagine what we could do in three months citywide with enough manpower and funds to promote the effort. If we diverted 90% of the solid waste from the landfill, we wouldn’t need to have an expansion conversationuntil 2015.”

To sign up for a free garbage audit, contact David Starr, David.Starr@Comcast.net

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