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    Curbside composting on the way

    Town program adds to regional recycling

    Hannah Parker (left) and Seth Cohen carry curbside compost bins Saturday for distribution to homes. Both are seniors at Manchester-Essex Regional High School.
    Hannah Parker (left) and Seth Cohen carry curbside compost bins Saturday for distribution to homes. Both are seniors at Manchester-Essex Regional High School.

    The “greening” of the region will continue in April, when Manchester-by-the-Sea adopts a residential curbside composting program.

    The town will become the first community in the state to adopt the program without first running a scaled-down pilot version, as Hamilton and Wenham did when they introduced the concept to Massachusetts in 2010.

    “Most people seem to be behind it,” said Paul Barclay, chairman of the Board of Selectmen in Manchester. “It’s an effort to try a couple of things that will save us money, have a greener effect, and make life simpler by recycling.”


    Around the region, several municipalities are reaping the benefits of both major changes and tweaks to their disposal programs. Gloucester celebrated the five-year anniversary of a pay-as-you-throw system that has saved $1 million. Communities are experimenting with larger bins, single-stream recycling, or the curbside composting pilot programs being run in Ipswich and Newburyport; another is scheduled to begin in Salem next month. Somerville has formed a task force to make recommendations on curbside composting.

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    In addition, Hamilton is seeking a partner to develop an anaerobic digester at the site of its former landfill, on Route 128 near the Manchester-by-the-Sea town line. An anaerobic digester turns organic waste into energy.

    The curbside composting has drawn particular interest from others around the state.

    “It’s very impressive,” said Sharon Kishida, regional solid-waste recycling coordinator for the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection’s Northeast District 2, which includes Manchester and 29 other communities in Essex County. “We have some great programs, and we are the leader when it comes to organics diversion.”

    She noted that the region has had good cooperation from not just residents, but also haulers such as Hiltz Waste Disposal (which picks up in Hamilton, Wenham, and Manchester), and commercial composting facilities such as Brick Ends Farm in Hamilton and Black Earth Compost in Gloucester.


    In Manchester, Barclay said that the town’s quick commitment to curbside composting — also called organic recycling — was made in part because of an enthusiastic committee of volunteers who worked on the initiative, as well as a community that is both frugal and “green.” In December, it became one of the 123 Green Communities designated by the state, earning an initial $138,850 grant for cutting energy costs.

    Special bins to handle the organic waste were purchased via a grant from the Department of Environmental Protection, which has made the program free for residents. The bins were distributed recently by local Scout troops, organized by Christian Dumont as an Eagle Scout project.

    The curbside composting will be introduced along with other changes in the community’s recycling. It will change to an every-week schedule (from every other week), and the town also will promote single-stream recycling, with paper products no longer separated from other recyclables by homeowners.

    More recycling will save money because separating recyclables from the other waste saves on trash disposal fees, said Bill Fitzgerald, Manchester’s public works director. In some cases, the savings can be significant.

    Five years after changing its approach, Gloucester has seen more than $1 million in savings as a result of an incentive to recycle rather than use pay-as-you-throw bags for all trash.


    “With the bag program, it is what it is,” said Rose LoPiccolo, recycling coordinator for the city. “Your trash goes in the bag. That’s it. It forced people to think about what they were throwing away, and forced them to recycle.”

    Projected to cut solid-waste volume by 15 percent, it instead has cut volume by 29 percent, according to city figures. It also increased the residential recycling rate from 23 percent to 31 percent.

    LoPiccolo projects that the next step for Gloucester will be single-stream recycling, with paper, plastic, metal, and glass all collected in the same bin.

    “I believe we could capture more material,” she said. “I’d like to say that we could do 50 percent, but think that would be a little optimistic, so I’d like to shoot for a 40 percent recycling rate, which I think would be outstanding.”

    Malden is another pay-as-you-throw city, and the program had its critics when it was implemented in 2009. A graphic on the city’s website indicates total trash tonnage has been reduced by 49 percent, while household recycling has nearly doubled.

    “Before we started pay-as-you-throw, we took in 23,000 tons of trash; now it’s about 10,000 tons,” said Robert Knox, who heads the Department of Public Works. “Those are drastic numbers, and drastic changes for the City of Malden.”

    David Rattigan may be reached at DRattigan.Globe@