Commentary: Lynn making progress on recycling

The Classical Freshman Academy has a vigorous recycling program. From left are former students Samantha Mamos, Lynn Ly and Stella Athanasopoulos. (Owen O'Rourke)

The city of Lynn has been diligently paying attention to its recycling stream over the last three years.

With combined efforts from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP), the recycling coordinator and the recycling team that spends the summer regulating curbside recycling, Lynn has seen its contamination decrease.

In April 2018, contamination peaked at 35.6 percent, but in October, after the Recycling IQ Kit’s second program wrapped, the contamination of Lynn’s recycling stream was at 14 percent.

A lot of hard work has gone into cleaning up the neighborhoods on which the recycling team has put its focus. However, we still have a long way to go. The challenges we face are only going to become easier to conquer if every person in Lynn works together to understand, and then implement, proper recycling practices.

We have big goals for the state of recycling in Lynn, and they can only be accomplished if residents, schools and commercial businesses are all on the same page! Spread across 10 days of blue- and green-week recycling, the contamination is sporadic. One of the biggest problems is the food and rubbish that are thrown loosely into recycling bins and end up being put to the curb without the protection of trash bags. Another obstacle occurs when people don’t put their bins out on time. The only way to ensure prompt pickup of trash and recycling bins is to get them to the curb either the night before or by 7 a.m. on collection day.

These two things — contamination of bags of trash in the recycling bins, and bins not being set out on time — go together. Some other contaminants the recycling coordinator has seen since wrapping the second round of the Recycling IQ Kit are: metal pots and pans, styrofoam cups, take-out containers and meat packages, free floating plastic bags and plastic bags full of trash, or recyclables.

Education and outreach to residents have proven to be instrumental in changing the conversation from what is right or wrong to recycle to how we can help people understand that the recycling rules are easy and proper recycling practices are attainable.

MassDEP’s media and their Recycle Smart campaign bring out the best of our recycling practices. Clear Channel billboards will be displayed throughout the summer, sharing the most important messages about what doesn’t belong in our recycling bins. The recycling team will be out for the third year in a row, checking curbside recycling bins, and enforcing the recycling rules through education and rejection of contaminated carts. What is most important is continuing the education around proper recycling rules.

Lynn’s momentum is strong, and all those involved have worked hard to clean up the city’s recycling. However, we can always be stronger, and better.

For further information, please contact the DPW at 781-268-8000 extension 14 to reach the recycling coordinator directly.

Jacqlyn Culwell is the city of Lynn’s recycling coordinator.

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