One Year Later, New Trash System Measures Progress

By Kim Siebert MacPhail

Bedford Recycle binsAs the first year figures for Bedford’s new trash system became available, The Citizen sat down with Gretchen Carey, part-time DPW Recycling Coordinator, for an assessment of the program to date.

Carey reported that great strides have been made in the last 12 months: 1,560 tons of solid waste were diverted from incineration— meaning that tonnage is down 21% from the previous year– and recycling has risen by 11%. Recycled materials now make up 36% of Bedford’s solid waste, an increase of about 3% over previous totals.

All this waste diversion has made or saved Bedford approximately $120,000 since last October. One source of revenue is from refuse cart fees: the first 48 gallon cart was free for each residence but a second cart incurred a fee of $150 for the first year. Residents can decide to keep the second cart for an additional $100 fee for another year or they may return it if they have adjusted to the limits of a single cart. Carey says that 120 second carts were optioned last year.

Another source of revenue comes from the sale of official overflow trash bags. Carey reports that, on average, 3 bags per household have been sold since the start of the program. Bags are available in rolls of five for $7.50—or $1.50 each—at Moison’s Hardware, Whole Foods, and Stop and Shop.

Money from the sale of carts and bags goes into a revolving account that was established during Annual Town Meeting last March for the purpose of providing funds to purchase new carts and bags as needed.

Gray recycling bins are also available for $7.00 at the DPW and “Bottles and Cans” stickers are free.  The stickers can be adhered to old trash barrels, thus turning them into recycling bins.

The remainder of the $120,000 total is money saved and results from less waste tonnage taken to the incinerator.It should be noted that the town is paid for the paper it recycles although the amount per ton fluctuates with market demand. Plastic, glass and cardboard—other materials that Bedford recycles—cost less to recycle than to incinerate.

In addition to savings, Carey reports that there was no increase in illegal dumping as was feared when the new trash program was initiated.

Although she works in Bedford only on Tuesdays and Wednesday, Carey says that she is available during those days to answer questions or provide assistance to anyone struggling with the new trash system. Eventually, universal compliance with residential trash guidelines will be enforced; for the first year, haulers have been more lenient than they will be in future.

Before turning her focus to the residential side, Carey is working with Town departments and schools to help them set up better recycling systems. Sometimes, she said, it’s a matter of providing supplies—like bins—or setting up better functioning recycling areas. At other times, it’s a matter of merely helping people carry out their own intentions, like supporting students at the middle school so they can put their idea of a battery recycling program into action. Other school-based initiatives might include cell phone and ink cartridge recycling efforts.

Carey says that she is also eager to work with organizations, churches, group homes, condominium developments, event planners—or even party hosts—who want to develop effective recycling systems.

For comprehensive trash and recycling information, visit the DPW website:

To contact Carey directly, call 781-275-7605 ext. 123 or email

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