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Amherst launches pilot program to increase recycling downtown

AMHERST — The town has launched an initiative to increase recycling in downtown Amherst and reduce the amount of trash from the commercial district that is being disposed.

The Department of Public Works is installing seven recycling bins throughout downtown, including in front of Town Hall, as part of a pilot initiative expected to run from September through at least next May.

Susan Waite, the town’s Solid Waste and Recycling Coordinator, said the Recycling and Refuse Management Committee is behind the program because the town has a mandatory recycling regulation through its Board of Health. The goal is to promote behavior that is consistent with town values and meet an objective of reducing the waste stream and promoting the concept of zero waste, Waite said.

“We’re going to hope the community can do a decent job of putting in the right stuff,” Waite said.

Waite observed that this is an expensive program to launch. Each of the containers, which were purchased with grants, cost $800 to $1,000. There were costs to producing the stickers that will go on the containers, and signs that stand next to them, as well as labor costs and uncertainty about whether the containers can be emptied during the regular trash schedule using the same one-ton truck. “It’s a pilot program because we’re trying to see what quantity is in the bins,” Waite said.

If a large number of bottles and cans are collected, then the recycling may prove worthwhile.

But that depends on a good response from the public, which should understand that paper and other products that can be recycled should not be placed in the bins. Waite said Amherst has avoided recycling downtown in the past because of these risks and the expenses.

If the pilot is successful, the Department of Public Works will seek grants to purchase more bins for installation at additional sites downtown and at parks and other recreational sites.

Waite said recycling is not always the entire solution.

“Recycling is far more complicated and less helpful for the environment than the average person believes,” Waite said. “Avoidance of disposable material is a far better choice, but not one that people are willing to make.”

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.

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