I am happy to report that Newton recently won a "Quiet Hero" award from Noise Free America for enacting reasonable restrictions on leaf blowers to ensure Newton residents can enjoy their back yards, especially in the summer.
The goal of the Solid Waste & Recycling Resolution #1 passed by the full City Council on May 16. 2016 is the development of a long term solid waste and recycling plan. Please see the following steps/action items that will help us to achieve more immediate and shorter term recycling and solid waste goals as per the Resolution.
Residential Recycling Program;
A citywide education and outreach program on what the City currently allows in the green carts, what is prohibited and what can be brought to Rumford Ave. This should include, but not be limited to a citywide mailing to all households who participate in the residential curbside program. Waneta Trabert, the Director of Environmental Affairs has developed an education and outreach program for FY17. This will include a mailing to all residents that the city services tentatively scheduled mid-late September (my understanding is that significant funding is already available for these programs).
Increased audits of recycling carts and better enforcement and follow up of violations. Put in place a system of tracking the current enforcement by Waste Management which is usually done when carts are visibly contaminated or overflowing.
Take advantage of new technology including new apps that give updated information on trash & recycling pick-ups. ReCollect is the program. Boston and Lowell use it. The company is based out of Vancouver, BC and their VP of Business Development now lives in the Boston area and teaches at the Kennedy School at Harvard about government and technology. The implementation of this program will be central to the FY17 education and outreach plan.
Require a feasibility study into expanding recycling facilities to businesses, institutions and condominiums complexes throughout the City of Newton and report back the results to the Public Facilities Committee no later than December 31, 2016. This should include looking at special permits whose terms require that the applicant provide private recycling and trash services. This could be part of a Solid Waste & Recycling Working Group made up, but not limited to the Director of Environmental Affairs, the Director of DPW, the Mayor or his designee, a member of the City Council, a member of the Solid Waste Commission and/or a member of the recycling committee.
A commitment from the school leadership to changing the culture of recycling from being an afterthought, to a district-wide resource recovery operation that reflects our commitment as a community to environmental sustainability, the preservation of our natural resources, protecting the oceans from non-biodegradable plastic waste and preserving a healthy, vibrant planet for generations to come. This could start in the form of a letter to all parents outlining recycling goals for September 2016.
A commitment from the Superintendent and the Director of Operations to achievable recycling goals within the next 6 months, 12 months and 24-month time frame (exact figures to be decided).
Apply for the School Recycling Assistance grant from MassDEP next year to be implemented district-wide at the beginning of the 2017-2018 school year.
Clear signage in all the schools about what can be recycled. Educational posters on why recycling and waste reduction programs are important. Where does Newton's Trash go?
Explore opportunities to integrate recycling into classroom science education if feasible (myself and Waneta can help coordinate this)
City officials/staff and particularly the Solid Waste & Recycling Manager will collaborate with the NNHS Recycling club, NSHS Environmental Club and Green Newton's Students for a Greener World (SGW) to raise awareness about recycling and resource recovery programs within schools and support school initiatives.
Determine the current process for recycling and what the current barriers are to increasing school recycling rates. A recent tour of both high schools show a need for a strong, unified message that prioritizes recycling goals and education about recycling programs, and the implementation of processes that are consistently reinforced and convenient to carry out by custodial staff.
An open and transparent process of how the recycling steps are carried out and who is responsible for meeting recycling goals in each individual school. This would include, but not limited to the Director of Operations, the principals and all custodial staff.
Increase recycling pick-ups at all schools and modify as needed. This will be coordinated by SWR Manager.
Explore the funding of a sustainability director for all the schools who would oversee and coordinate all solid waste, recycling and composting efforts in the long term. Apply for grant funding of this position by December 2016.
A plan to ensure all water fountains and water filling stations are clean and in good working order in all schools and playgrounds by December 2016.
A plan to phase out the sale of bottled water in schools by September 2017.
Parks & Recreation (picks up trash & recycling from village centers, parks and recreation areas)
Better Signage and/or education and mailings on what types of materials can currently be recycled in Big Belly units. This should include a list of items that cannot go into Big Belly Recycling Unit, e.g. Styrofoam, plastic bags, liquids.
A public education program aimed at reducing the contamination rates of "away from home" recyclables.
The SWR Manager will work with WM to determine acceptable contamination rates.
Better collaboration between SWR Manager and Environmental Affairs to improve recycling rates and decrease contamination rates. This includes re-designing the process as to how the Parks & Recreation Department manages the trash and recycling pick-ups and consider removing this responsibility from the department all together.
Currently, the department has two conventional trash trucks and 6-8 pickup trucks used in operations. There is no clear process as to how trash and recycling are kept separate and most recycling is ending up in trash trucks.
Implement a service switch so that Parks and Recreation carts/dumpsters are picked up by WM instead of being disposed of at Rumford. This would immediately improve the current situation.
There appears to be a culture and history of throwing most recycling into the trash which needs to be reversed. This is important. This cannot be tolerated. It is a state law (landfill/incineration banned materials) and must be core to the City’s efforts from the top down.
If trash & recycling pick up operations continue to be managed by Parks and Recreation it will be important to replace at least one of the two trash trucks (one of which is nearing the end of its useful life), with a split truck which keeps recycling and trash separate.
Parks & Recreation will coordinate with other city departments to ensure that all parks and public spaces that have existing water fountains are clean and in good working order so as to encourage the use of reusable water bottles.
Development, Zoning, Housing & Land Use:
Promote efficient land use through development of compact communities with a lively mix of uses, including housing, businesses and shops, civic and open spaces, to encourage walking, biking and reduce the reliance on auto use, especially single occupant vehicle use (SOV). Support public transit and minimize loss of open space.
Encourage policies and programs that reduces the dependence on local property taxes and evaluate locations of the city that lend themselves to appropriate commercial and mixed use development.
Promote regional land use planning and transportation options. Regionalize the responsibilities of growth by coordinating and communicating with neighboring communities.
Promote diverse housing types in all communities to enable persons and households from a wide range of economic levels, cultures and age groups to live and work within their boundaries.
Foster a strong sense of place: Consider the history, micro-environment and character of communities when planning new development.
Promote development that makes use of existing structures; rehabilitating or repurposing existing buildings, and taking advantage of infill parcels. Rehabilitation and renovation conserves resources, minimizes waste, and preserves the history and culture of our villages.
Mimic natural systems. Evaluate the impact of development on larger ecosystems, and wherever possible, preserve the green-spaces, wildlife habitat, natural drainage and vegetation. Promote special protections for farms, forests, community gardens and fragile ecosystems.
Sustainability, Transportation & Green Infrastructure
Connect and expand walk- bike corridors (research has demonstrated that increasing a neighborhood’s “walkability by just 5% is correlated with driving 6.4 % fewer miles per capita). Additionally, a study by the Urban Land Institute in Cambridge projected that “maximum deployment” strategies to increase walking and biking could reduce CO2 emissions by millions of tons by 2050.
Engage in holistic long and short term transportation planning strategies that prioritize public transit and designs roads for all users. Work with all stakeholders to leverage funding for significant infrastructure improvements that improve access and reliability.
Include strategies for maximizing green infrastructure in our zoning code, this includes increasing tree and vegetative cover, green roofs, permeable surfaces and utilizing cool pavements. This not only reduces the urban heat island effect, but also reduces storm water runoff and provides public health and economic benefits.
Solid waste and Recycling
Review current solid waste and Recycling goals annually, including but not limited to;
Review and evaluate the current haul and single stream agreement with Waste Management with an eye towards increased diversion and incentivizing recycling.
Consider new ways of contracting including encouraging requests for proposals from local businesses and small business startups.
Partner with Mass Challenge and local businesses for product redesign that integrates disposal/end use costs.
Pilot a weekly organics/food diversion program for 400-500 volunteer households.
Require all take out containers to be recyclable or compostable.
Goal of 50% diversion rate curbside by 2022
PILOTS; payments in lieu of taxes & Tax Policy
The amount of the PILOT should reflect the cost of providing services to a non-profit. Especially the cost of core public services like police and fire protection, snow removal and street cleaning. I would pursue a more formal PILOT agreement similar to what the City of Boston has done, which is to call for voluntary payments based on an institutions tax exempt property value.
Schools & Public Places
Support and promote excellent schools. Improve and maintain schools and city buildings, parks and open space, sidewalks and roads, and water, sewer and stormwater utilities.
Commitment to transparency, openness and communication;
Ensure that all decision-making processes continue to be open, predictable, fair and inclusive.
Not a new subject as this quote going back to 1886 from our 19th President indicates;
“In church it occurred to me that it is time for the public to hear that the giant evil and danger in this country, the danger which transcends all others, is the vast wealth owned or controlled by a few persons. Money is power. In Congress, in state legislatures, in city councils, in the courts, in the political conventions, in the press, in the pulpit, in the circles of the educated and the talented, its influence is growing greater and greater. Excessive wealth in the hands of the few means extreme poverty, ignorance, vice, and wretchedness as the lot of the many. It is not yet time to debate about the remedy. The previous question is as to the danger—the evil. Let the people be fully informed and convinced as to the evil. Let them earnestly seek the remedy and it will be found. Fully to know the evil is the first step towards reaching its eradication. Henry George is strong when he portrays the rottenness of the present system. We are, to say the least, not yet ready for his remedy. We may reach and remove the difficulty by changes in the laws regulating corporations, descents of property, wills, trusts, taxation, and a host of other important interests, not omitting lands and other property”.
Rutherford B. Hayes, 19th President of the United States.