State cutbacks put more responsibility on municipalities to boost recycling rates — and they have.
State budget cuts reduced staffing levels in the state Department of Environmental Services’ waste management division. The department lost nine positions due to budget cuts in 2012 in its , including the recycling coordinator.
“We’ve lost the funding,” said Jim Martin, public information director for . “I’m regularly frustrated that we don’t have the staff to do what we could anymore.”
As a result, less time is spent tracking how much is recycled in each of the state’s municipalities.
“That’s one of the areas we have fewer resources to track on statewide level,” he said. “The bureau just doesn’t have time to do that data or analysis anymore.”
Instead, municipalities are doing most of the work to encourage recycling — and it has worked. Many towns have seen an increase in their recycling rates.
“We are extremely pleased with the increased recycled rate we have seen,” said Ellen Cabral, member of the Hampstead Recycling and Waste Disposal Committee. “We hope to see this percentage grow further as we implement more educational sessions in the coming year.”
Last June, Hampstead had a 22 percent recycling rate. Then the town joined the Recyclebank Green Choices Challenge, which provided incentives for people who recycled. The town finished fifth out of 50 towns that participated in the contest from July through December. The town’s rate improved to 26 percent.
“The word got out about the contest and it got the results we were looking for,” Cabral said.
Martin said the statewide recycling rate is close to 35 percent. The goal is to hit 40 percent.
Some towns have already hit that goal. Pelham reports a recycling rate of 43 percent last month.
“It’s a very good rate,” said Stan Walczak, director of the town’s transfer and recycling station. “Our waste has stayed steady, but we’ve also seen the increase in recycling.”