By Alex Lippa
---- — 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.”
Walczak said the town’s switch to single stream recycling has made a big difference in its rates.
“It just makes it as simple as possible for our residents,” he said.
The town’s revenue from the sale of recyclables is zero, he said, but they have saved a good chunk of money by reducing waste.
“I’d say we save between $65,000 and $75,000 each year,” he said. “It’s something we’ve accomplished over time.”
Another town with a high recycling rate is Derry at 39 percent. Michael Fowler director of the Department of Public Works, used that number in his pleas for a new transfer station.
“We are managing that facility with one hand tied behind our backs,” Fowler said. “Much of the cost to build this station could be offset because of what we recycle.”
Construction on the new $3 million transfer station is scheduled to begin this fall..
Other towns’ recycling rates may not be as high, but they are still reporting increases.
Salem is below the state average at 20 percent, but DPW director Rick Russell said that’s still an improvement.
“It’s been going up the last couple years,” he said.
Russell said he didn’t know why Salem’s numbers were lower than other towns, but he believes they’re on the right track.
“We just have to make people realize the price people are paying when they don’t recycle,” he said. “It’s $56 more per ton to dispose of waste compared to recycling. That makes a difference on the tax rate.”
Russell credited the initiative taken by school Superintendent Michael Delahanty as a reason for the increase.
“He’s really encouraged recycling in the schools,” Russell said. “When the kids start wanting to do it, then the parents feel like they have to.”
Plaistow has seen its recycling rate go from as low as 12 percent to 20 percent.
“It’s been a dramatic increase,” Town Manager Sean Fitzgerald said. “The credit is to our residents.”
Plaistow instituted a two 50-gallon-barrel limit for curbside trash pickup. That, Fitzgerald said, has prompted more people to recycle.
“When I look at the number of people who have supported that, I can tell we are on the right track,” he said.
Fitzgerald said the town has saved $100,000 in the two years since the two-barrel limit has been in effect.
Dennis Senibaldi, Windham’s solid waste management supervisor, said transfer station workers constantly remind residents to recycle.
“We monitor it as the trash goes in,” he said. “You can hear people throw a bottle into a trash. We just tell them they can’t do that.”
Windham’s recycling rate is about 24 percent.
Towns are no longer required to report how much they have recycled to the state. Instead, the state collects data from each transfer station.
Martin said the state’s solid waste program is funded through general funds, which means funding is uncertain.
“It’s a constant process,” he said. “We are still trying to streamline and reorganize how we work with towns and facilities to manage solid waste and recycling.”