My first day at Watertown Recycling Center

On my first day volunteering, Mike greeted me when I pulled my bike into the lot.  Mike’s an Italian-American that took a liking to me the first day I was introduced as his assistant, but still thinks I’m crazy for not asking for any money from the town. I tell him that he’s doing me a favor just by letting me hang around, and being open to my questions (which I have a million).

With my recent career change I figured this would be a great launching off point for me, working at a municipal recycling yard. First, I want to learn the basics and create a foundation. So far, from my perspective, common knowledge in the waste management industry is rapidly changing. Nobody knows what is truth and what is myth. This is mainly because standards vary so much between processing facilities. Not to mention people have deep-seeded believes that resonate for their whole lifetimes.

Also, recycling really isn’t as simple as just throwing the item in the correct bin, like most Americans believe. Material goods have a life-cycle where they move from their birth stage (when they get extracted from the earth) to their end stage (hopefully not the landfill). This is where the management comes into play, and it requires many people working together to give it another life. At the local level in Watertown, I can see that there’s quite a responsibility to do my best educating dumpers, and encouraging them to throw their junk in the right location. I still remain very skeptical about what’s actually the truth though. I’ve learned this is healthy in recycling; to question what you’re told no matter how many years of experience the authority on the matter has.

Our subcontractor, Republic Waste Services, picks up the waste a couple times a month and brings it to the Casella Processing plant in Charlestown, MA where they bundle it, and I’m assuming, sell it back to producers. (*Side note: I wonder if Watertown’s municipality gets any revenue from this?) There’s also a $300 fine when Casella decides that they aren’t able to process the load due to contamination, and reject it back to us.Of course, the blame falls on Mike and I for the lack of oversight, so it’s my goal to never have this happen, nor the rejected recyclables going to the landfill. It’s my hope to educate people with detailed signs about correctly sorting their own waste. Solve the issue at the source. Although, I’m already prepared for the letdown of seeing someone who nonchalantly throws their baby’s diapers in the yard waste pile, but hey, one person at a time creates change.




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