My idea to help Watertown reduce their waste

After speaking with Mary, who works for Watertown Public Works, the subject of reducing waste came up. She notified me that they want to increase the town’s recycling rates, and shrink garbage can sizes in hope of ultimately reducing trash output. She didn’t have to mention to me the amount of savings this would cause.

With less trash, there would be lower overall hauling costs that they have to pay to their contracted waste management company (Republic Waste Services, in this case). Less demand for Republic’s services saves fuel costs, maintenance costs, labor costs, etc. All these costs for Republic get passed along onto the municipality. Also, there are countless negative environmental costs that can be avoided (the costs of managing landfills, garbage truck emissions, etc). Sure, there would be a lot of public backlash once the new regulations are implemented, since people generally don’t like change, but after awhile it would become the norm and people would adapt. Take my hometown of Portland, OR for example. They moved trash collection from every week to bi-weekly, and many residents were encouraged to shrink their waste bin size. This, of course, caused a fuss in its early stages, but now it’s a great success.

Overall, I love to see Watertown addressing their solid waste problem. It’s a rising issue that every municipality faces, and it’s better to begin planning now versus waiting until you have a disaster on your hands.

Naturally, after talking with Mary, I began pondering how I could contribute to their goal. She really didn’t seem too sure about the plan’s details, or how they were going to approach it. It sounded like there was still a lot of room for creative thought. I know how busy they are at the Public Works Office, and I wouldn’t doubt it if it’s low on their agenda. Before they started they would need an assessment of the towns’ waste habits, in order to make the best decision of how to go about it. They would need data, and, luckily, that’s my specialty.

I was thinking about conducting a questionnaire that samples a portion of the town’s residents, targeting the whole Watertown population. The survey would asks questions related to the type of waste residents have, what they recycle versus throw in the trash, their awareness of the recycle center, and underline it with a section for demographics. Perhaps, it would even be helpful to ask them to what extent would they choose to shrink their trash bin given it would lower their monthly hauling bill?

It’s also very important to look at how other towns have implemented similar programs where residents pay depending on the size of the trash bin. The smaller the bin, the less they pay to get their trash hauled each month. It ends up saving a lot. My aunt was telling me about how Winchester, MA has been using that system for awhile now. Maybe there’s a way to improve on it for Watertown?

Many ideas are churning in my head right now, and I know there’s plenty of potential to institute a program that would reduce Watertown’s trash. It’s up to me to begin independently researching the best possibility.

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