In 2009, the City of Cambridge adopted a goal to reduce trash by 30% by 2020 and 80% by 2050, using 2008 as a baseline. Subsequently, the Department of Public Works (DPW) launched new programs and educational campaigns over the past decade to encourage residents to reconsider what they toss in the trash. Cambridge officials announced that the 30% trash reduction goal was achieved one year early. In 2019, the City of Cambridge reduced its trash reduction numbers by 32%, to 15.6 pounds per week per household, compared to 22.8 pounds per week per household in 2008.
“By adding new programs that encourage diverting items from the waste stream and enhancing our existing recycling programs, we’ve been able to achieve this ambitious goal ahead of schedule,” said Public Works Commissioner Owen O’Riordan. “I want to thank Cambridge residents and our Recycling Advisory Committee for their hard work in helping the city reduce the amount of trash we send to the landfill. It may take an extra minute or two to separate your items, but it’s worth the extra effort.”
Cambridge achieved this goal by improving curbside recycling, encouraging reduce and reuse practices, and enhancing opportunities to divert hard-to-recycle items such as electronics and textiles. Among the most impactful programs was Cambridge’s curbside compost program which expanded citywide in 2018 as part of recommendations from the city’s Zero Waste Master Plan. The compost program is accessible to more than 32,000 households in Cambridge. The curbside compost program has reduced trash by 7% and has substantially reduced the net greenhouse gas emissions of our waste programs. It also costs the city less money to dispose of food waste in the compost program than in the trash.
The Zero Waste Master Plan, which was developed to assist the City in achieving goals of reducing waste and greenhouse gas emissions, also identified mattress recycling as a program that can help reduce trash. Launched in April 2019, the program has diverted more than 5,000 mattresses to date. Instead of going to a landfill, the mattresses are collected by UTEC (United Teen Equality Center), a nonprofit organization serving at-risk young adults, that picks up, deconstructs, and recycles mattresses. This new program reduced trash by 250,000 pounds in 2019.
Cambridge has also encouraged residents to use its Recycling Center, at 147 Hampshire Street, to drop off items that may be recycled, but cannot be collected curbside, such as electronics, plastic bags, and scrap metal. “I’m incredibly proud of this achievement and the various efforts that DPW staff have deployed since 2009 that have contributed to the city meeting the 30% trash reduction goal ahead of schedule,” said Cambridge City Manager Louis A. DePasquale. “This accomplishment highlights the city’s commitment to using data and evidence to drive strategic decisions to achieve goals set by the City Council. Without the help of our impassioned residents and the support of the City Council, this goal would not have been accomplished. I look forward to making strides outlined in our Zero Waste Master Plan to continue decreasing trash in Cambridge.”
“We’re thrilled that we could come together as a community to accomplish this goal,” said Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui. “Reducing waste is one of several ways Cambridge is working to help reduce our impact on climate change.”