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Town Meeting has approved a new name and a new mission for the members of the Recycling Committee, now known as Zero Waste Arlington. In addition, the size of the committee expands from nine to 11.

Cochair Larry Slotnick said in a news release that "the new members will allow us to take on more projects and do more outreach to the community."

The request to Town Meeting was to update the purpose of the committee and to recognize the changes since 1995, when Town Meeting identified recycling as part of the proper disposal of waste.

Educate residents

“Our new mission is to educate residents and work with the town to develop programs that position Arlington to meet Massachusetts’ goals for solid-waste reduction. The name is a recognition that increasing recycling is a worthy goal, but only a small part of the work Arlington can do,” Slotnick said in the release.

The vote of Town Meeting charged the group to advise the town about programs and outreach related to diversion of organics from the trash stream, reductions in single-use plastics, packaging waste, community-based programs for repairing or swapping household items, and recycling problems related to contamination and market demand for recovered materials.

Town Meeting members asked several questions, including raising concerns about the changes in the markets for recycled products.

Market fluctuates

Recycling Coordinator Charlotte Milan confirms that the market fluctuates, but the state Department of Environmental Protection continues to enforce the ban on sending recyclable materials to incinerators and landfills. "It's a question I get frequently," said Milan, "but Arlington residents should continue to recycle all glass containers, cans, junk mail and plastic containers listed in our recycling guide."

A clear example of the group's ideals is the second article put forward at Town Meeting, which approved restrictions on polystyrene foam and certain uses of rigid No. 6 plastics, effective next Jan. 1.

The ban addresses two forms of polystyrene: foam cups, plates and bowls will no longer be provided by restaurants, sold in retail stores, or allowed at events in town spaces. Also banned are plastic containers (for salads, as an example) and all forms of No. 6 plastic for straws or utensils provided by anyone who serves food.

"Someday Arlington may ban other single-use plastic items, but for now we are pleased that our first recommended step to reduce No. 6 plastic was approved," said Juli Brazile, a member of the group.

Read the report

Also presented at Town Meeting was a report from the group describing plans to educate the public about all forms of waste. Read the report here >>

"Now that we have our new name and mission clarified, ZWA hopes to help businesses and consumers develop better habits. Restaurants can ask before providing plastic straws or utensils and we know from talking to businesses that some are aware of the issues from their customers and ready to learn," said Priya Sankalia, cochair.

The official adoption of the town’s new bylaw creating the committee will not be effective until later this year, but its meetings will be held during summer. Committee meetings are listed on the town website and are open to the public.

Information is on the Town Recycling & Trash page and visitors are welcome to attend meetings or request to join an email list for interested residents.

For assistance, contact Milan at the Department of Public Works, 781-316-3108.

This extended news announcement was published Tuesday, May 28, 2019.