Saturday, April 16, 2011

My Testimony to the Boston City Council

Ross Levanto
Testimony to Boston City Council (As Prepared)
Committee on Environment and Health
April 14, 2011

I want to thank this committee for investigating an issue that is very important to all residents of Boston. I speak to you today in two roles. First, as a board member of the Beacon Hill Civic Association, and the former chair of that group’s city services committee. Second, as a resident of Beacon Hill who has been investigating cleanliness, and the related issue of recycling, since I moved to the neighborhood in 1999.

The Beacon Hill Civic Association is a strong advocate for investigating ways to increase recycling rates. Adding a day of recycling would provide our neighbors with two days of recycling per week—currently we have one day of recycling and three days of trash pick up. By making recycling more accessible, it follows that recycling rates will increase. At the same time, the association is mindful that adding recycling days requires close investigation by the city and consideration of other circumstances, such as trash and recycling pick up schedules and, of course, costs.

The civic association’s strong support for increased accessibility to recycling dovetails the group’s successful cooperation with the City of Boston on the issue. The civic association has always helped the city to distribute the blue bins and now larger containers that are used to collect recyclables. Current association programs aim at educating our neighbors, whether it be through our email newsletters, by communication to land owners and realtors, or by distributing our own materials and those provided by the city that outline recycling options.

The Beacon Hill Civic Association applauds the single stream recycling program, which has clearly made recycling easier for our residents. We also strongly support other efforts by the city and our elected officials that have helped to keep our streets clean.

I am spearheading an effort by the civic association to investigate the impact of potential changes to our trash and recycling pick up schedules. Let me be clear, the Beacon Hill Civic Association has set no policy regarding any potential changes to the trash pick up schedules. However, we are investigating, in part, whether changes would increase recycling by our neighbors by making recycling even easier. The public works department has been very accessible during this process and is encouraging an open dialogue among the neighborhoods of Boston and City Hall to investigate options that meet the needs of residents, make our streets cleaner, and increase recycling rates.

If I might, I would like to talk to you a bit about my personal thoughts, separate from my official capacities as a board member of the Beacon Hill Civic Association. Fortunately for you (and perhaps unfortunately for me), I have studied the issue of trash and recycling on Beacon Hill for a long time. I have been asking my neighbors to consider reducing the number of trash pick up days on Beacon Hill from three to two, in exchange for having two days of recycling.

In that scenario, we would have recycling and trash pick up on the same two days each week. Other members of the civic association’s city services committee have also asked that the pick up times for trash and recyclables be moved very slightly so that trash pick up can begin at 9 a.m. instead of the current time of 7 a.m. The combination of two days of trash pick up, two days of recycling, and the move in pick up times... I call that 2+2+9.

Germane to today’s hearing, in my opinion, such a move would make recycling easier on Beacon Hill, because there won't be any more confusion as to which day is our recycling day. It will also dramatically reduce the amount of time trash is at the curb. Finally, it will not mean an increase in the number of pick-up runs the city must pay for on Beacon Hill, so hopefully it will not increase the cost to the public works department. By moving the start of pick up to 9 a.m., neighbors can advocate strongly for same-day trash pick up, which will further limit the amount of time trash is at the curb.

As part of my research, I worked with the civic association office to poll young professionals on Beacon Hill. These residents are more likely to live in a small space in our neighborhood and therefore would be the most adversely impacted by changes to trash pick up schedules.

Hot off the presses, here are some of the results of that survey. Less than half of these residents put their trash out on the curb three times a week. Roughly half of these residents recycle regularly. I have also heard comments from some of these and older residents that they end up having much more recycling each week than trash. I have come to the conclusion that these residents would feel an impact from the removal of a trash pick-up day, but that the effect is not overwhelming, and given the propensity of this group to recycle, by adopting 2+2+9, we could actually see a nice increase in recycling volume from younger residents. And I would imagine the impact would be similar to other constituencies throughout the neighborhood.

In summary, thank you again for holding this hearing today. We all know that recycling saves money, helps our environment, reduces landfill use, and in general, is just the right thing to do. And I look forward to working with each of you to put in place policies and processes so that we can increase Beacon Hill resident participation in recycling to 100-percent.

Thank you.

Submitted by:
Ross Levanto
112 Myrtle Street, Apt. 2
Boston, Mass. 02114
April 14, 2011

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