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For hard-to-recycle items, Salem thinks beyond the trash can

Salem has installed permanent collection bins for residents and small businesses to recycle items that cannot be disposed of through the city’s regular curbside recycling program.Micaela Guglielmi

Salem is offering community members an environmentally friendly way to dispose of used toothpaste tubes, razors, pens, and assorted other items they might otherwise toss in the trash.

Officials in late November installed permanent collection bins for residents and small businesses to recycle items that cannot be disposed of through the city’s regular curbside recycling program.

The city, which is partnering on the project with the innovative waste management firm TerraCycle, has set up four metal bins in the lobby of the City Hall Annex at 98 Washington St. Items can be disposed of at no charge whenever the building is open.


“The goal of the city’s recycling program is to reduce waste and encourage reuse in the city,” said Micaela Guglielmi, Salem’s waste reduction coordinator. “Keeping stuff out of the trash and increasing recycling is important so any way we can do that we try to do.”

New Jersey-based TerraCycle partners with businesses, retailers, and municipalities to recycle items — from dirty diapers to cigarette butts — that would otherwise end up being landfilled or incinerated, according to the firm’s website.

“We pick up where municipal recycling leaves off. They have things they recycle and then we collect the other things that are typically unrecyclable,” said Sue Kauffman, a spokeswoman for TerraCycle.

Salem installed separate bins for each of four categories of waste. Accepted items include used Swiffer pads, reusable and disposable razors, blades, and cartridges; deodorant containers; such oral products as toothbrushes, toothpaste tubes, and floss containers; and office supplies, including pens, glue sticks, and paint sets. Packaging for the various items is also accepted.

Periodically during the year, the city will ship collected items to TerraCycle in Trenton, N.J., where they are recycled.

“These are items which are normally adding to our waste stream. They will now be taken out of it and put to good use,” said Salem Recycling Committee chair Carol Hautau, who with committee member Bonnie Bain came up with the idea for the program.


Beyond the expense of purchasing the bins, there is no cost to Salem to dispose of the recyclables. TerraCycle, which receives income from corporate partners and the sale of its recycled materials, provides Salem with reward points redeemable as cash it can donate to local charities.

Hautau said she was inspired to propose the program by the creative work TerraCycle has done to expand the possibilities of recycling and help develop products made of recycled materials.

“I just believe in them — this is something to support,” she said.

“We are more than happy to work with anybody dedicated to diverting waste from the landfill and making the world a better place,” Kauffman said.

While there are other public entities that partner with TerraCycle, Kauffman said Salem stands out for having a permanent, communitywide collection site in a fixed location.

Hautau said the waste items the city chose for its program, such as razors and tooth care products, were selected because “these were things most people have. Other items, such as fancy hair products, we didn’t think would be a big draw.”

Based on feedback on the city’s social media sites, Guglielmi said the program is being well received by many residents.

“I think a lot of people are excited to have new creative ways to reduce their waste,” she said. “A lot of residents in Salem really care about reducing waste and come to our events.”


The initiative adds to others by Salem to expand recycling, including collections for textiles, electronics, and one planned for styrofoam; “repair cafes” in which volunteers fix items for free; and special “swap” events for books and other items. In partnership with TerraCycle, the city also recycles cigarette butts that can be placed in “butt bins” located throughout Salem.

“Recycling curbside is important but that’s really only plastic, paper, cardboard, and glass,” Guglielmi said. “There are so many different kinds of waste. This is just trying to find solutions to those difficult-to-dispose-of items.”

John Laidler can be reached at