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City officials look to end recycling woes

By Christopher Roberson

 

The need for larger recycling containers continued to be a point of contention during the Feb. 8 meeting of the City Council’s Industrial & Community Development Committee. Peter Gamache, general manager of JRM Hauling & Recycling, said 18-gallon recycling bins were distributed to residents during the late-1990s and early-2000s.

However, Ward 1 Councillor Jon Turco said the current bins are no longer sufficient, particularly with empty water bottles flying around in the wind. “We’ve all changed to bottled water; bottled water is through the roof,” he said. “Those little chintzy bottles blow all over the place.”

Gamache said the next step up would be 24-gallon containers to be distributed to the “17,000 or 18,000” residents who recycle. At approximately $15 each, that many containers would cost between $255,000 and $270,000. Gamache also said the plastic containers tend to break during cold weather. “You have to look at the quality of what you’re looking to buy,” he said.

In addition, he said Peabody should keep its dual-stream recycling system, which requires residents to separate recyclable items from regular trash. “The problem with the single-stream recycling program is the contamination factor,” he said. “I could go on for a long time about those issues.”

Single-stream recycling has had a negative impact on the international recycling market. “China has pretty much closed its doors in terms of importing recycled materials from the United States,” said Gamache, adding that the market has become stagnant. “It’s scary right now, we’re in a tough situation.”

Ward 5 Councillor Joel Saslaw said the mixed recycling sticker is quite misleading. “Is that single-stream or dual-stream?” he asked. Gamache said bottles, cans and plastics can be put in a container using that sticker.

Saslaw also said residents could easily become fed up with the entire recycling program. “The last thing we want to see is for people to say, ‘You know what? I don’t want to do it anymore,’” he said.

Ward 2 Councillor Peter McGinn said he does not believe that residents put out all their recyclable items. “I don’t think you’re getting all the recycling, I think you’re getting a fraction of it,” he told Gamache. “I think you’re discouraging recycling.”

McGinn also said that instead of the 24-gallon bins, residents should have the biggest containers possible to contain their recyclables. “It’s a mess out there, it’s disgusting,” he said.

Although he acknowledged that the recycling market is not good, McGinn said it will turn around. “Like all markets, it’s going to recover at some point,” he said.

 

Other news: signs, bicycling

In other news, Saslaw spoke about the banners and A-frame signs throughout the city. “People put up these nice banners and they don’t replace them,” he said, adding that after a time they become worn and turn into eyesores. “A lot of the A-frames go up without the proper procedure, and we get into a little bit of a Wild, Wild West situation.”

Building Commissioner Albert Talarico said “enforcement has been lacking” in terms of how long signs can stay out, thus warranting the need for a code enforcement officer. “Right now we’re just being reactionary,” said Talarico. “As long as the city approves it, there’s really nothing I can do about it.”

Jennifer Davis, director of the Park, Recreation and Forestry Department, spoke about adding bicycle kiosks to the South Peabody Greenway, around Crystal Lake and downtown. She said one company she investigated was Zagster, which allows residents to take its bikes from town to town.

Turco also mentioned research he had done on a company called ofo, saying the service has done well in Revere. “The bikes were pretty much used 24 hours a day – it was a huge success,” he said. “I think it would be a huge success here.”

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