DPW Update on Waste Reduction, Recycling & Re-use

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The Department of Public Works provided the following update on trash, recycling, and re-use efforts in Watertown:

Happy New Year! 2023 was a strong continuation of the big push that was started in 2022 to help achieve our Resilient Watertown action items, as well as the City Council established goal of reducing the amount of waste sent for disposal by 30% by 2030.

Watertown’s tonnage reduction is being tracked based on the City’s 2019 baseline of 8,760 tons of waste sent for disposal.

Watertown sent 8,581 tons of solid waste for incineration in 2022 and reduced that amount to 8,327 tons in calendar year 2023.

This decrease shows that as a city we are continuing our trajectory of reducing our trash tonnage every year, which is critical to hitting our goal. There is always room for improvement, and 2024 will be a year full of innovative programs that will keep us moving the needle forward.

Watertown’s Recycling Department has created a strategic plan that goes through 2030. This plan includes ideas for how to focus on reuse and reduction, while also increasing recycling.

Some initiatives that have already been taken are:

  • The Watertown recycle center is currently getting fitted for a cardboard compactor, which will reduce the number of trips the drivers need to take per month.
  • The compactor will also free up space in the center that can be used for a permanent swap shop, another Watertown reduction endeavor.
  • Swap shop models are all around Massachusetts, and they help to keep useful and working items out of the trash and even give them a second or third life before we recycle them.
  • Many of the materials that are put in the hard plastic or e-waste containers could be repurposed, and this will be a great way to increase local reuse and promote community-mindedness.

Watertown is entering its second year of our FREE curbside compost program! If you have not signed up, give it a try, today! Sign up for free: www.blackearthcompost.com/watertown

  • Watertown has been a model for many municipalities that want to emulate our program for their residents.
  • As of February 2024, there are 2,700 households signed up for curbside compost, as well as drop off bins at the recycle center for residents in apartments.
  • The DPW held a highly successful billboard campaign this summer, which brought in new residents to the program. Maybe you saw it!
  • The DPW partnered with Watertown’s Health Department to underscore the benefits of the curbside program to help prevent rodent activity.
  • The DPW hopes to increase the number of drop off bin locations (like the ones we have at the recycle center) to help include residents who live in apartments.

All of our public schools are composting in their kitchens, which reduces the trash tonnage
at the schools!

  • This is a huge educational and environmental win for Watertown!
  • The Cunniff and Hosmer have robust cafeteria compost programs for all students, and the Lowell will be starting in February, 2024.
  • Composting has become a foundational part of Watertown’s elementary school curriculum, with the fifth graders taking on leadership roles and teaching their fellow students about the importance of composting in the classroom and cafeteria.
  • We are so proud of our students and faculty that are making this a priority.

Watertown is in its third year of textile recycling!

  • The City averages around 1,900 pounds of diverted textiles per month!
  • Helpsy, the textile recycler that Watertown partners with, is able to salvage nearly 95% of all textiles recovered for resale or reuse.
  • The DPW sponsored a really successful pilot costume swap and clothing drive this past October, in time for Halloween.

Watertown residents recycled 757 mattresses/box springs in 2023!

  • Watertown successfully diverted 36,000 pounds of material by recycling our mattresses, as required by the new MassDEP waste ban law.
  • HandUp, a local mattress recycler that collects in Watertown, is able to re-sell a small portion of their mattresses that are in new condition when they are collected.
  • They sell these at a discounted price to low- income families in Massachusetts. We are excited to be working with a company that cares about re-use, reduction, and recycling.


The Recycling Department has multiple recycling/ waste reduction events planned for the spring. Details, locations, and times may change. Please keep updated by visiting our recycling events page.

  • Tuesday, April 9, 2024—clothing swap and textile turn in. Bring your own clothes to swap and come to find a new spring look!
    o Hosmer Elementary School. 5PM-8PM
  • Saturday, April 27, 2024—Finished Compost/ soil give away and baby oak tree giveaway
    o 124 Orchard St. DPW office. 10AM-2PM
  • Saturday, May 18, 2024—Recycling Event: Paper shredding, $20 mattress recycling, free dehumidifier turn-in, Styrofoam collection, clothing drive.
    o Boston’s Jewish Community Day School Parking lot. 10AM-2PM

2 thoughts on “DPW Update on Waste Reduction, Recycling & Re-use

  1. Great progress-proud of our DPW and the efforts that are made by our schools both in education and in the composting program.

  2. As I am reading this article, my scheduled pickup from HELPSY was collected! I have used this service several times in the past year, and have recommended their service to many people. So convenient to just leave on the front porch, they are also very responsive on their website if there are any questions or issues. Great partnership for Watertown.

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