Northfield residents wrestle with recycling changes

  • The cardboard and paper recycling piled up inside the building at the Greenfield Transfer Station. Staff file Photo/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 2/23/2020 5:16:23 PM

NORTHFIELD — Residents concerned with the rising cost of recycling in Franklin County gathered at Dickinson Memorial Library last week to discuss the coming changes and possible ways to curb the costs.

Starting in July, proposed changes to the contract with the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection and the operator, Waste Management Recycle America, will cost transfer stations $93.50 per ton of recyclables that are sorted using the dual-stream method, which involves separating paper products from bottles and cans. If a town were to operate using single stream, where all items are discarded together, it would cost $145 per ton to bring everything to the Springfield Materials Recycling Facility.

According to Cate Woolner, a Northfield resident who organized the meeting, the meeting came out of an online conversation on Nextdoor, an online neighborhood forum. Residents wanted to discuss the challenges the county is facing and the ways that community members could alleviate costs and avoid using non-recyclable materials.

“We’re looking at the bigger picture of how we handle our materials and looking ahead,” Woolner said. “For the first meeting, we generated some good ideas.”

Attendees discussed ways to be more conscious of the materials they’re bringing into their homes. Woolner emphasized the importance of being conscious of what is or is not recyclable.

“We need to change what we put in our houses so we don’t have to throw away items,” she said.

A number of people, instead of redeeming soda cans and bottles, recycle them with the rest of their waste. In Northfield, Woolner said, the local Scouts troop and the Northfield Food Pantry will collect and redeem these items for a small income.

Another topic that was discussed was the fact that pellet bags are no longer recyclable at the Transfer Station. Woolner said she, like many others, uses a pellet burner to heat her house. Instead of being recycled, the change in the recycling system would see bags brought to Springfield and incinerated. Woolner said she hopes to find an alternative.

Jan Ameen, Franklin County Solid Waste Management District executive director, and Northfield Board of Health Chair Bob MacEwen were also in attendance. MacEwen put forth the idea of forming a “Friends of the Dump” group among Northfield residents. The group of volunteers would help residents learn about and follow proper recycling practices, and help to inspect or sort materials at the Transfer Station.

“That is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time,” MacEwen said of the “Friends of the Dump” proposal.

MacEwen also proposed pulling glass out of the waste stream, crushing it and using it locally. He said it could be used on the roads and for other purposes similar to the use of sand. According to MacEwen, the Highway Department pays $32 a ton for sand and it could be a minor cost offset to the town.

“When you crush it to that size, it is sand,” he noted.

Ameen noted towns can separate out glass for a $5 discount per ton. MacEwen said the cost of hauling materials to the Springfield facility will be a big expense, and glass is one of the heavier materials brought through the station.

A second residents’ meeting is scheduled for March 3, from 6:30 to 8 p.m. in the community room at Dickinson Memorial Library.

“We want to hear from everybody,” Woolner said. “We want people getting together to talk about how we, as a small town, are going to think sustainable, and about trash-in and trash-out.”

The coming recycling cost changes apply to 19 towns in the Franklin County Solid Waste Management District: Bernardston, Buckland, Charlemont, Colrain, Conway, Deerfield, Erving, Gill, Heath, Leverett, Montague, New Salem, Northfield, Rowe, Shelburne, Warwick, Wendell, Whately and Orange. Non-district towns of Greenfield, Shutesbury and Ashfield also needed to sign a new contract with the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection and Waste Management Recycle America.

Zack DeLuca can be reached at or 413-930-4579.

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