DPW Releases Results of Watertown’s Recycling Audit

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The following information was provided by the Watertown Department of Public Works:

The Watertown recycling audit has concluded after two weeks. Thank you to all who reached out with questions and engaged with this city program! Observation from the audit found that about 10 percent of each route contains recycling contamination. This means we still have work to do in the city to ensure that we are sending the correct materials to our Materials Recovery Facility, also known as a MRF.

MRFs, like everything else, can only work efficiently with the materials that they are built to process. We want to prevent “wish-cycling” which means putting things we hope can be recycled into the bin, even if they are not approved materials. The recycling bin is not a catch all for any material or item.

If you are trying not to throw an item away, see if there are ways to re-use it, repurpose it, or gift it.

A few common items that were found in Watertown recycle bins that do not belong:

  • Paper towels / tissues
    o The good news is these can be composted. If you find yourself with a lot of paper towels, try our compost program! blackearthcompost.com/watertown/
    o Paper towels and tissues cannot go into the curbside recycling. If you do not have compost, please put them in your trash.
  • Styrofoam
    o This is not curbside recyclable.
    o Watertown does offer special events to collect Styrofoam. The next event is May 18th 10AM-2PM. Check our website for more information: www.watertownma.gov/897/Upcoming-Recycling-Events
    o If you cannot wait for an event, this goes in the trash.
  • Plastic bags and plastic wraps
    o Any soft plastic (meaning plastic that does not hold its shape) does not go into curbside recycling.
    o Many grocery stores have soft plastic and plastic bag recycling containers.
    ▪ Check your local store to see if they collect these materials.
    o Soft plastics are detrimental to the sorting machines and cannot be processed.
    o If you cannot recycle at a grocery store, these go in the trash.
  • Chip bags / wrappers
    o Any wrapper that would come from chips, candy, snack, etc…these are trash.
  • Amazon packages / shipping envelopes
    o Packing/shipping envelopes go into the trash.
  • Textiles
    o We have Helpsy! They take many types of textiles for free from your house. Schedule a collection today: https://www.watertown-ma.gov/739/Textiles-Recycling
    o Drop off textiles (clothing, shoes…etc) at the recycle center
  • Food or containers with food in them
    o All materials need to be rinsed out and free from food
    o Let containers soak with water to loosen and remove residue, before drying and putting in the curbside bin.

General Reminders

  • Watertown does not permit bagging recycling in plastic bags—even clear, or brands that say “recycling bags” are not permitted.
  • Just because it is plastic, does not mean it is recyclable in the curbside bin. SO MUCH of our world is made up of different types of plastic. We are lucky to have accessible curbside recycling, but we must use it for what it is designed for—which is limited to a select number of items.
  • Curbside recycling can only deal with a handful of plastic items, such as bottles, tubs, jugs. If it is plastic, it must be able to hold its own shape!

Zooming Out To The Larger Picture Around Recycling

  • Curbside recycling is part of a larger system.
  • Recycling processing facilities make money by selling the collected curbside materials to other vendors. These companies use these materials in the manufacturing of new items, rather than having to mine or create new raw materials.
  • Try buying something that says it contains recycled content. Buying items with recycled content (such as printer paper, paper towels, water bottles, kids toys … and more) ensures that companies know consumers want these types of items.

If you have questions about the report, please email the Recycling Coordinator at recycle@watertown-ma.gov

One thought on “DPW Releases Results of Watertown’s Recycling Audit

  1. Thank you Public Works for the clarifying statements concerning
    what goes where. This is so much more informative than the brief recycling
    guidelines contained in your annual collection schedule. We will print
    and attach to the collection schedule for future reference.

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