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The Boston Globe

Magazine

Are big blue bins bad for recycling?

A story of high hopes, human nature, and flawed green initiatives.

ON A BRILLIANT DAY in June, I stood on a catwalk inside a dark, cavernous building, looking down at a mountain of garbage. Actually, it was recycling — newspapers, pickle jars, and, wait, was that a red plastic sled? A skid steer was shoveling crumbling chunks of the mountain onto a conveyor belt, which pulled the goods inside.

If you live in or near Boston, there’s a fairly good chance your recycling comes here, to Casella in Charlestown. The biggest material recovery facility in the state, it sits just north of Bunker Hill Community College, hard against the Interstate 93 northbound lanes, and trucks drop about 750 tons of household- and business-generated recycling here every day. I’d driven by the place a hundred times on my way to the White Mountains and never noticed it.

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