The City of Melrose achieved significant progress in recycling and waste reduction in 2014 through several new and expanded initiatives. Key program elements included:
- Major improvement in curbside recycling by transitioning from bi-weekly dual-stream pickup to weekly single-stream pickup
- Expanded multi-channel resident education program
- Growth in citizen involvement in recycling through the volunteer Melrose Recycling Committee
- Formation of the Green School Solutions Committee to implement recycling solutions for community schools
- A strong community events program
Results achieved through these programs include:
- 5% increase in the municipal recycling rate
- Increased community awareness and engagement
- 1,500 pounds of mattresses recycled
- Increased recycling in three schools
- 13 events and programs
In September 2014, Melrose launched a major new program—the transition from bi-weekly dual-stream pickup to weekly single-stream pickup, while implementing a trash limit. Utilizing two technical assistance grants from MassDEP, the Melrose Department of Public Works (DPW) was able to demonstrate the benefits of this transition to Mayor Rob Dolan and the Melrose Board of Alderman. The program has been overwhelmingly successful, with a 5% increase in the city’s recycling rate since September 2014. Also, the added convenience of the program is positively changing Melrose residents’ attitudes towards recycling.
Melrose also used the expanded curbside recycling program as the centerpiece of a resident engagement/education plan, including the following initiatives:
- Distributing over 6,000 recycling stickers in four months
- Creating and mailing a “Trash and Recycling Guidelines” pamphlet to each resident (not done in over five years)
- Publishing many articles in the local newspapers
- Expanding the social media program, including nearly doubling the readership of the monthly Recycling e-Newsletter; increasing traffic and nearly 100 more “likes” on the Melrose Recycling and Solid Waste Facebook page; and creating a Melrose DPW Twitter account
- DPW’s production of two education videos, available on YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCq7jdUpAq7q2u-d72qdNgTw) and on Melrose’s local cable station.
Citizen Involvement: Melrose Recycling Committee (MRC)
The volunteer MRC grew considerably in 2014, with five new members and new projects. Achievements included the creation of a website (https://melrecyclingcommittee.wordpress.com/) featuring event updates, a photo gallery, bi-monthly blog posts, and the “Recyclopedia” – a list of how to dispose of various items. The committee also joined Sustainable Melrose (SM), a coalition of ten civic groups. The MRC played a large role in SM’s first presence at the annual Healthy Melrose Fair, making it the city’s first “zero waste” event.
In 2014, MRC organized Swap Day, a community reuse event (detailed below), and it visibly supported the proposed Massachusetts Bottle Bill expansion through letters to local newspapers and other activities.
With its new members and strong momentum, the committee’s current initiatives focus on reducing food waste, increasing recycling at businesses and apartments, increasing school recycling, and reducing the use of disposable bags.
Robust Community Events Program
DPW planned eight events to provide recycling options for the following: Styrofoam, plastic bags, metal items, electronics, mattresses, rigid plastic, paper shredding, and hazardous waste. New events included mattress recycling, in partnership with United Teen Equality Center, and a paint swap day. The mattress recycling event provided the first opportunity to recycle mattresses in Melrose and resulted in the diversion of 1,500 pounds of mattresses from the waste stream. With MRC, the DPW also had a presence at four community events—Sally Frank’s Farmers Market, the Winter Festival, the Melrose Victorian Fair, and the Healthy Melrose Fair. The DPW and the MRC also partnered with the Melrose Human Rights Commission to run a litter cleanup for the community’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service.
Melrose’s Second Annual Swap Day was a huge hit, with over 20 volunteers and 300 residents attending! Items swapped included clothes, shoes, books, sports equipment, household items, and kitchen supplies. All items not swapped were donated to Goodwill and other charitable organizations. Run by the DPW and the MRC in partnership with Birth to Five and the Friends of the Melrose Public Library, Swap Day will be an annual community event providing an opportunity to save reusable items from the trash and give them a new life.
Green School Solutions Committee
The Green School Solutions Committee (GSSC) formed in 2014 to aid schools in their sustainability efforts. The GSSC consists of the DPW and parents working in collaboration with the Middle School Green Team, school staff, the MRC, and local organizations and businesses.
In 2014, the GSSC supported the student-led Green Team (GT) club in an effort to install water bottle filling stations in the school to reduce plastic bottle waste. Since the installation in May, the stations have saved over 20,000 plastic bottles from being wasted! The students held a ribbon-cutting ceremony when the stations were installed (picture attached)—guests included Mayor Dolan, school officials, local politicians, and project donors—and they received significant media coverage, both locally and online (http://becausewater.org/bottle-filling-stations/bottle-filling-stations-newest-trend-school/) for their waste reduction achievements. Mayor Dolan was so impressed by the students’ work that a filling station is being installed in City Hall this spring. Stations are also being installed at Melrose High School and at two elementary schools.
This year, the GT students are working on two projects: food waste reduction and gardening. The food waste projects include the city’s first composting pilot and the first program for donating uneaten food (to Lovin’ Spoonfuls). Also, the students are building the city’s first hydroponic garden in their school.
Green fundraising has increased in all eight of Melrose’s public schools, exceeding $6,000 in a year and a half. All eight schools have BayState Textile recycling boxes, and three schools have book recycling boxes.