Boston aims to reduce its waste and turn it into wealth

By Catherine Trudell


It costs Boston almost $40 million a year to remove it’s tons of trash. Those involved in Boston’s zero waste planning agree that diverting materials from landfills and incinerators by increasing reuse and recycling will not only be good for the environment, but good for the economy too.

“Right now the city pays an average of $64 a ton to incinerate at our waste to energy facilities. It costs $5 a ton to recycle at our recycling facility. So there’s a cost savings right there,” said Boston’s Recycling Director Susan Cascino . “So it’s not just an environmental benefit, I think that there’s good economic opportunity as well.”

Cascino said the global economy is currently set up to work linearly: take – make – dispose. Natural resources are taken from the earth, the product is manufactured, the consumer buys it, and then it’s disposed of. The life cycle of most products ends in a landfill.

Zero waste advocates offer an alternative way of producing and selling goods, called a a circular economy. In this model, discarded materials are fed back into the economy to create new products.

Zero waste supporters suggest that businesses and governments adopt a circular economy, that imitates the natural cycles, rather than the current linear economy.

“Zero waste could be also analogous to materials management because it’s a mindset that’s shifted,” said Phil Goddard, who manages an integrated materials facility in the town of Bourne. “It’s affecting everything from building design to process design. People are factoring it in to recover all the energy in the loop.”

Not only is recycling materials cheaper than burning them, but there are more jobs in zero waste. Recycling, reuse and remanufacturing directly support more 2,000 businesses and an estimated 14,000 jobs in the Commonwealth, according to Massachusetts Solid Waste Masterplan 2010-2020

“We’re paying people 40 million dollars a year to destroy stuff that has value,” said Alex Papali, a member of Zero Waste Boston. “It’s a double negative. It makes no sense. And a triple, and quadruple negative when you think about the climate impacts, public health, toxic chemicals everywhere, so what sense does that make? The opportunities seem clear.”

About Catherine Trudell 2 Articles

Catherine is a multimedia journalist who has a passion for video storytelling. While her hope is to one day take over Anthony Bourdain's throne as CNN's travel host, for now she'll continue to shlep around her camera bag, telling stories about interesting, ordinary people and issues that matter.