Metro, Newton

City Official Outlines Plan to Reduce Trash in Newton at Public Facilities Meeting

A Sustainable Materials Management official from the city’s Department of Public Works, which manages recycling and trash, discussed reimagining curbside trash collection to reduce waste and lower costs in a Newton Public Facilities Committee meeting on Wednesday night. 

“For the 2030 plan the goal is to again reduce trash by 30 percent in 10 years and 90 percent by 2050,” said Waneta Trabert, director of sustainable materials management for the City of Newton Department of Public Works.

Since peak waste in 2004, the City of Newton has been on a steady decline in terms of waste generation, according to the meeting’s agenda. But, there is a continuously reducing capacity for waste in Massachusetts, as the solid waste combustion capacity is currently being fully utilized, according to the agenda. 

Landfills have continuously closed since 2010 with no new facilities planned for construction, according to the meeting’s agenda. 

The department described the main goals as reducing trash, maximizing environmental protection, and reducing costs or minimizing cost increases, according to Trabert. 

Composition trash studies have identified organics as making up about a third of trash disposal in Newton, representing a large amount of material that could have been composted, Trabert said. 

The department is looking to put in place a pilot program for in-home food waste processing, and it sees this as feasible to be implemented within the year, she said. 

Trabert also went over several other recommendations for combating the issue of recyclable or compostable materials going into the already strained waste stream, including reducing trash cart sizes to 35 gallons, half what they currently are, and transitioning from a tax-based funding model to a utility-based funding model, she said. 

The City of Newton is currently offering compost bins at a subsidized rate, according to the meeting’s agenda. 

“What we pay for trash is double that for recycling,” Trabert said. 

David Kalis, Ward 8 councilor-at-large, said the issue demands further examination.

“[It] is a complex challenge and for the administration to figure out what goes first, what goes second, what is the timing with everything and how do we do the best we communicate with people as this is gonna change a lot, there’s gonna be a lot of questions,” Kalis said.

The committee asked for future periodical updates regarding the process of refiguring trash collection. 

The construction of Countryside Elementary School, including issues surrounding environmental safety as it pertains to flooding and stormwater drainage were also discussed. 

Emily Norton, ward councilor from Ward 2, said that environmental issues should be of utmost importance in the city.

“Between us and mother nature, mother nature is gonna win,” Norton said. “And this was a wetland that is where water is going back to, and we can’t wish that away, and I don’t believe the data shows we can engineer it away in this site.” 

Concerns among the committee surrounded the previous year’s flash flooding issues in the Newton Free Library parking area. 

Josh Morse, commissioner of public works, said that for flooding to occur in the library’s parking lots over 20 inches of rain would have to fall in a 48-hour period. These would be hurricane level events that are not likely, he said.

Notably, the school will also be making use of geothermal energy and has currently just completed its first well test run, according to Morse. 

“We are reducing the peak flow and the peak volume of stormwater leaving our site,” he said. “We are increasing the flood storage capacity on our site … reducing the impervious area … [and] not directing any stormwater from our site onto any other residential properties.”

October 22, 2023