90.9 WBUR - Boston's NPR news station
Top Stories:

Blue Bins And The Future Of Trash In Boston

A recycling center in San Francisco. (AP)

A recycling center in San Francisco. (AP)

Boston recycles less waste than other cities and throws more into landfills. Are those ubiquitous blue bins to blame? We’ll take a close look.


Barbara Moran, a science journalist, her recent piece on recycling in Boston is here.

Jack Macy, senior commercial Zero Waste Coordinator for the San Francisco Department of the Environment.


Boston Globe “If you live in or near Boston, there’s a fairly good chance your recycling comes here, to Casella in Charlestown. The biggest material recovery facility in the state, it sits just north of Bunker Hill Community College, hard against the Interstate 93 northbound lanes, and trucks drop about 750 tons of household- and business-generated recycling here every day. I’d driven by the place a hundred times on my way to the White Mountains and never noticed it.”

Other stories from this show:

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
  • Lor Holmes

    Let’s be
    innovative in our approaches to improving recycling and leverage the strength
    of Boston neighborhoods. There is a start up company called CERO (Spanish for
    zero- as in zero waste), that’s ready to show the way to pair community education
    with residents and providing environmental services to businesses. They will
    bring restaurants and stores into source separation for recycling and composting.
    That will also support local farming, food and energy production. Creating
    smaller neighborhood collection districts would be a good step the city could
    take to support this type of innovation.


  • donniethebrasco

    I worked in a office with recycling bins.

    When I worked late (often), the cleaner put all the trash in the same bin.

  • donniethebrasco

     There needs to be 15 bins in every house.

    1. Paper
    2. Coated paper
    3. Clear glass
    4. Green Glass
    5. Amber glass
    6. Plastic bottles
    7. Tin/Steel
    8. Aluminum
    9. Electronics
    10. Plastic bags
    11. Cloth
    12. Meat
    13. Vegetables
    14. Cheese/Dairy
    15. Other

  • Rmail

    Casella Recycling in Charlestown takes Boston recyclables and markets these materials just as successfully as they did when the program was dual stream, vs. single stream.

  • Apdpalmer

    Plymouth MA just went to Pay-as-you-throw and I love it! There was a debate that lasted years and the big push about 6 months ago was single stream curbside pick-up. I wanted PAYT because not everything is recycled and people need to think about REDUCING the trash that they create. PAYT should do that. . I understand people who create a lot of trash, whether it’s because there are more people in their household or they are using a lot of diapers but I’m on track to save about $50 a year for my family of 4 from previous years trash bills. Anybody interested in this topic should read the book, Garbology. Great book!

  • Rmail

    The stuff in recycling bins that is not recycled, is the stuff that’s not recyclable. In general curbside recycling is very straightforward: paper, cardboard, and glass, metal and plastic containers. The success of the program largely depends on people putting the right stuff in their bins. Drivers can and do reject bins with unaccepted items, and the recycling facility is set up to remove unaccepted items.

    Just remember: no plastic bags, no styrofoam, no food, no liquids, no electronics, no clothing, no light bulbs, etc.

  • shmalex

    I work for an environmental organization, and our members have an interest in reducing the water, air and climate pollution from landfilling and incineration.  But we recognize that there are many stakeholders absent from the decisionmaking table, especially recycling and disposal workers and the host communities affected by these policies.  If we want low participation rates to increase, residents need to see clear benefits like good local jobs, rather than the current dangerous minimum wage jobs.  If we want all the economic and environmental benefits of modern recycling systems like SF, Seattle, Austin etc, the incoming administration has a great opportunity with the new 5-year contracts in 2014 to make Zero Waste planning a key part of the city’s agenda.

  • http://www.toxicsaction.org/ Sylvia Broude

    In my mind, the most important thing missing here in Boston is an ambitious goal of zero waste and a plan to reach it. Pay As You Throw is one proven way to increase recycling, but it’s one of many ways.  San Francisco has really taken a whole-system approach through zero waste planning and committed to maximize reduce/reuse/recycle/compost and minimize waste. There are many paths to get there. Boston really needs a paradigm shift and a process that engages residents all across the city to develop and adopt a Zero Waste Master Plan similar to what has happened at the state level in Massachusetts and in cities and towns like San Francisco all around the country and the world.

Hosts Meghna Chakrabarti and Anthony Brooks introduce us to newsmakers, big thinkers and artists and bring us stories of relevance to Bostonians here and around the region. Live every weekday at 3.

  • Listen: Weekdays, 3 p.m. on 90.9 FM
  • Live Call-In: (800) 423-TALK
  • Listener Voicemail: (617) 358-0607
Most Popular
This site is best viewed with: Firefox | Internet Explorer 9 | Chrome | Safari