A five-fold increase in state inspections has revealed that more than 80 companies and institutions in Massachusetts improperly disposed of a substantial amount of recyclable material on at least one occasion during the past year.
The Department of Environmental Protection issued 101 citations to entities such as stores, restaurants, and waste haulers. They were generally cited when a single material banned from the trash — such as cardboard, wood, or construction material — made up 20 percent or more of a load inspected at a transfer station, landfill, or incineration facility. In one case, a large appliance triggered a violation.
In the suburbs south of Boston, the highest concentration of violators was in Braintree. They included Con-way Freight, Lord & Taylor, Quirk Chevrolet, and a transfer station owned by the Southeastern Massachusetts Resource Recovery Facility known as SEMASS.
Three were in Plymouth: SmartPak, a horse nutritional supplement and supply company; Verizon, on Nicks Rock Road; and Village Landing Marketplace, a group of specialty shops across the street from the Plymouth waterfront.
Others cited south of Boston include Fibertec, a Bridgewater maker of reinforcement fiber for plastics; Sunco, a cabinet company in Easton; Best Chevrolet in Hingham; and Norwest Woods, an apartment complex in Norwood owned by Chestnut Hill Realty.
Also cited were Home Depot on Willard Street in Quincy; Southeast Shellfish, which processes clams into clam strips, in Wareham; and in Weymouth, Mass Hauling and Weymouth Club.
Some 40 percent of waste disposed of in Massachusetts is recyclables banned from the trash, according to Ed Coletta, a spokesman for the Department of Environmental Protection.
To boost enforcement, the state budgeted for three new inspectors this fiscal year and hired them in the fall, Coletta said in an interview. Previously, employees were doing inspections as part of other jobs.
Of 101 violations statewide, 98 resulted in a notice of noncompliance. The other three, repeat offenses committed by trash haulers in Agawam, Hampden, and New Bedford, resulted in fines of $1,032 to $1,500, Coletta said.
Entities that receive a notice are required to respond to the state with a plan to correct the problem.
“It’s really worked out very well,” he said.
Asked about the violations, some companies blamed renovation contractors; others said the notice alerted them to a temporary failure to meet their own standards. Several did not comment by press time.
At SmartPak, chief operating officer Dodd Corby said the company’s citation for a “white good” was for a dishwasher thrown into the trash by a contractor during renovations.
“Honestly, I kind of consider us one of the good players in this area, because it’s very important to us,” he said. He said the company recycles not only the usual range of cardboard, paper, plastic, and metal, but also shrink wrap and 55-gallon metal drums. Plus, it offers employees the opportunity to bring their personal electronics, including computers, cellphones, and rechargeable batteries, to the office for recycling, he said.
According to Corby, SmartPak recycled 175 tons of material in 2013.
Renovations were also the catalyst at Weymouth Club, a fitness and recreation center, according to operations director Kristian Jenkins. The club underwent a $2 million renovation to convert an indoor tennis court into a mind-body center, he said, and when the violation happened, workers were bringing in furniture and fixtures packed in cardboard — the material found in the trash.
A subcontractor must have put the cardboard in the wrong place, he said.
Southeast Shellfish was cited for wood. Owner David Gallant said clams are shipped in wooden crates, and his business accumulates hundreds each day, especially in summer.
He assumed his trash hauler would tell him if he was doing something wrong, he said. To solve the problem, the hauler brought in a designated dumpster for wood.
At Quirk Chevrolet, which was cited for cardboard, Quirk Cars president and owner Daniel Quirk said the company has purchased a baler and is able to sell the bales of cardboard for a small price.
“The DEP did us a favor, because I believe in recycling, and we didn’t realize how much we were generating,” he said.
At Best Chevrolet, also cited for cardboard, owner Scott Shulman said the company’s collision and parts center receives many large cardboard boxes. Prior to the notice from the state, the company was selling cardboard for recycling, but when things got busy and the weather got cold this winter, workers weren’t doing a great job separating it, he said. He said he was glad for the notice so the company could remedy the situation. It has added a second cardboard recycling station.
Norwest Woods, one of the few residential violators, was cited for cardboard as well. George McHugh, president of property management for owner Chestnut Hill Realty, said the company took immediate corrective steps, placing new signage on its recycling containers and e-mailing residents.
“Quite frankly, we were surprised to get it,” he said of the violation notice. “We pride ourselves on being a green company.”
SEMASS was cited for wood at its transfer station in Braintree. The station handles residential trash from locations in Boston, Braintree, Randolph, Quincy, and Weymouth, among others, and does its best to inspect the loads, according to business manager Thomas Cipolla.
Asked why the state cited SEMASS instead of the haulers, Cipolla said the state holds both SEMASS and its customers responsible.
Dan Buonagurio, president and owner of Mass Hauling, said he did not know how his facility on Libbey Industrial Parkway in Weymouth could have been cited for paper in the trash, because it is a recycling plant. His other company, Capital Paper Recycling, recycles 3,000 tons of paper and other materials a month at the same location, he said. Mass Hauling does, however, pick up trash for high-rise buildings in Boston, and someone there could have placed paper in the trash, he said.
Claire Sullivan Galkwoski, executive director of the South Shore Recycling Cooperative, an agency that manages recycling for 14 local communities, said enforcement helps the public understand that throwing recyclables in the trash is not acceptable.
“They don’t want to be punitive,” she said of the state’s new effort. “They want people to stop throwing good things in the trash.”
Items banned from disposal include recyclable paper, cardboard, paperboard, certain plastics and metals, large appliances, yard waste, construction materials, lead acid batteries, and cathode ray tubes. Wood and whole tires are banned from landfills.
Starting in October, commercial food waste and other organic waste will be banned if the entity produces at least a ton a week, Coletta said. It will have to be composted, turned into feed, or taken to an anaerobic digestion facility.
He estimated the change will affect about 1,700 restaurants, schools, food processors, hotels, and convention centers.