The trash system in Massachusetts is an expensive and growing problem that is hitting Gateway Cities especially hard. Gateway Cities spend more than $14 million per year to incinerate or landfill easily recyclable, reusable or compostable material as trash. This money could better be spent on economic redevelopment, public safety or on improving our infrastructure.
As CommonWealth magazine recently detailed, almost half of the garbage being sent to landfills or incinerators in the state is actually made up of recyclable goods. These have significant value outside of the waste stream. The article cited an estimate that Massachusetts municipalities and businesses spent almost $163 million in 2013 to bury or burn recyclable materials that could have sold for $217 million. Altogether, the financial impact of throwing away these recyclables was $380 million per year, money that could be used far more productively for other purposes.
More broadly, throwing away recyclable goods also has an impact on jobs and the regional economy. Recycling creates vastly more jobs per ton than incineration or landfilling. Across Massachusetts, better recycling could create an estimated 5,000 jobs, many of which would be concentrated in our urban centers.
While paying $163 million per year to destroy $217 million in recyclables every year is an obvious problem, it is compounded by the shrinking amount of available disposal space in the state. In the 1980s, 302 landfills operated in Massachusetts, but today there are only eight available for general municipal trash. Two of those are slated to close this year, two more will close in 2016, and there may be none at all by the end of the decade. As CommonWealth reported, an estimated 1.5 million tons of annual landfill capacity is expected to be lost by 2020. And while landfills are closing, no new incinerators are being built. This situation will require cities to spend dramatically more to dispose of their waste and will require significant growth in our out-of-state trash exports.
It is good policy-financial, environmental and employment-to find ways to increase recycling and make the waste stream as small as possible. In doing so, Gateway Cities will pay less to throw less recycling in the trash and will benefit from the value of recyclables on the market. Some of the options that Massachusetts cities and towns are pursuing include pay-as-you-throw, barrel limits, mandatory recycling and increased education. While these different strategies have varying levels of effectiveness, this much is clear: Massachusetts municipalities-Gateway Cities primary among them-cannot afford to continue to do nothing in the face of this garbage crisis. Spending more than $163 million per year to create fewer jobs and more pollution is not a productive use of capital, especially when our needs are so great in other areas.
- Stephen Lisauskas, WasteZero
Housing & Economic Development
Secretary Ash announces a series of roundtable discussions to be held on June 25th in Worcester, Quincy, Lynn, West Barnstable, Lowell, and Springfield to inform the state's next economic development strategy.
A new MassINC Polling Group/WBUR poll indicates voters want economic gains spread more evenly.
The South Coast Innovator Labs leases 5,000 square feet in the former Dever State School in Taunton.
MassDevelopment CEO Marty Jones writes about the promise of the Transformative Development Initiative in the latest issue of Municipal Advocate.
The city of Springfield issues a new report projecting 8,400 new jobs will be created by several projects, including the MGM casino.
A scaled back plan for Quincy's downtown redevelopment calls for $145 million in public funds that officials say will be paid back using revenue from new private development.
A former Lowell elementary school is repurposed as housing for veterans.
US Treasury awards New Market Tax Credit allocations, including $50 million to MassDevelopment. The New Market Tax Credit Coalition gears up for a fight to reauthorize the expiring program with a report on the impact of this federal investment.
Casino proponents in New Bedford hope the promise of jobs will be enough to sway the public in favor of the project; the local fishing industry comes out in force opposing the proposed waterfront casino.
The Item explores the potential of the Gateway Cities Housing Development Incentive Program to contribute to the redevelopment of the Lynn waterfront.
The New York Times reports on reinvestment in downtown Youngstown, OH.
Boston2024 adds New Bedford to the bid. Back in January, we joined those calling for New Bedford as the host city for Olympic sailing events and offered a number of strategies to ensure the Olympics produce benefits for regional economies across the state.
A new MassINC Polling Group/WBUR poll finds more support for hosting the Olympics if events are spread throughout the Commonwealth.
The Massachusetts Institute for College and Career Readiness hosts a webinar on individual learning plans with Gateway City districts.
Jobs for the Future writes about progress on the Pathways to Prosperity project in Brockton and around the country in the Summer issue of Communities and Banking.
Brockton officials consider bringing a lawsuit against the state for failing to meet its duty to provide all students in public schools with an equal education.
The Worcester School Committee approves a resolution calling for a three-year halt to high-stakes testing.
Springfield hopes it has found a way to keep kids reading over the summer.
The state announces plans to continue running the Lawrence schools through at least 2018.
Fall River's Letourneau Elementary receives a $285k grant from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to expand learning time for students.
Worcester teachers are 87 percent white and a Department of Justice-sponsored conversation about race reveals that that is a problem when talking about racial issues in the city and beyond.
Lawrence Mayor Daniel Rivera orders city officials to suspend licenses and occupancy permits of the tenants of landlords who fail to pay their taxes on time.
A small group of volunteers in Fall River that support a city charter review have finally gathered the 7,495 signatures necessary to get the question on the November ballot after more than three years of collection.
The Herald publishes an op-ed stating that Fall River's proposed $10 per-unit trash pick-up fee would place a heavier burden on those living alone.
The bridge connecting Holyoke and Chicopee reopens to vehicles after a four-year, $26.5 million renovation.
Transportation officials are holding a series of public meetings in Amherst, Quincy, Boston, Springfield, Framingham, and Taunton to hear from residents about a proposed $3 billion capital investment plan, which includes a winter resiliency program.