Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Somerville Single Stream Recycling Data is In

Based on the first few weeks of data, the sing-stream pilot project, which is currently underway in a section of Ward 5, appears to be doing quite well. Recycling rates are up, as you can see in the chart below:

We will continue to add to this chart as more data is collected. You can view and download the spreadsheet here. In addition, you can read the following press release, which contains further details about the project:

SOMERVILLE – After the first eight weeks of the Single Stream Recycling pilot program, taking place in a segment of Ward 5, the Office of Sustainability and the Environment (OSE) reports that recycling rates have increased by approximately 58% in that area.  The average amount of recycled materials prior to the Single Stream pilot totaled approximately 3.8 tons per week; the average after eight weeks of the pilot is approximately 5.99 tons.  To help offset the costs of the pilot, OSE also recently announced that the City has received a grant from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) totaling $18,000 for costs associated with the new 65-gallon toters, recycling education materials, and a food waste collection demonstration. 

“Based on Single Stream Recycling efforts in other communities, Somerville can expect to see a 50% increase in our recycling rates should this program be implemented citywide,” said Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone.  “The results after eight short weeks are already demonstrating that this program can work, with effective marketing and strategy, and we’re thankful for the grant funding from the DEP to help us fund the pilot.”

“I am excited to learn that many residents in this pilot area are finding Single Stream useful, and overall a positive change for the City,” said Ward 5 Alderman Sean O’Donovan.  “I am eager to continue working with our constituents to continue increasing our recycling rate citywide.”

Through the pilot program, which began on October 14th, the City is collecting data that will be used to develop recommendations about implementing the program citywide.  Pilot area residents should look for a survey in the near future which will help the City with program development.  Currently, Somerville recycles 16-18%% of its solid waste.

Residents within the pilot area who do not wish to utilize the 65-gallon toters may continue to use the City’s smaller, blue recycling bins if desired.  For more information, please call 311.  Information is also available on the City’s website, www.somervillema.gov


  1. Can you please change the Y-axis to start at zero? This project looks plenty successful on its own, no need to pad the numbers by using a misleading graph.

  2. I'm a huge proponent for single stream and even if it costs more (I assume it will, even given savings on trash pickup) I'd be willing to pay more in taxes for it.

    And the above poster is way right. Somerville can make a strong case for single stream, so there's no need for skeevy graphs that will raise more concern than confidence.

  3. You are both right. The data speaks for itself. I did not mean to publish a skewed chart; it was the Google default, and when I changed the code it did not update. You can see the correct chart in the link to the spreadsheet. I am working on the HTML right now. Thanks for your comments!

  4. OK. Got it to work. In case you're interested, here's how: http://www.google.com/support/forum/p/Google%20Docs/thread?tid=7ac83173aaf671d9&hl=en

  5. Great! Thanks for fixing it. Congrats on a successful trial!

  6. I really hope single stream can be rolled out to the whole city. My downstairs tenants seem to have a really hard time keeping to the rules about how the city wants recycling, and I am constantly having to sort out or repack their recycling. They get sort of defensive when I remind them of the rules and roll their eyes, like they can't keep straight all these byzantine twists of policy on recycling. Current policy in Somerville is more annoying than in other cities, even ones without single stream.

    Even if you were allowed to put paper in a bin instead of having to put it in a paper bag that would be way more convenient. We shop with reusable bags so we have to make a special effort to get paper bags to keep paper recycling in, and if the weather is bad or there is snow the bags tend to disintegrate, rip open, fall over, or get kicked by pedestrians when put out for pick up. A bin would be an improvement, but single stream would be an even bigger one.

    In general, I'd also much prefer to have single stream myself, and I would gladly pay a little more in taxes for that. I know tax doesn't work that way, but you get the idea.


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