‘Recycling crisis’ pushes Boston officials to come up with budget-friendly solutions

BOSTON — One city councilor in Boston says recycling has become too expensive for the city, prompting a “recycling crisis”.

Usually, items recycled in the city of Boston end up at the Casella Recycling Plant in Charlestown, but processing those items is now coming at a steep cost.

Boston City Councilor Matt O’Malley says the costs to recycle in the city have changed significantly, where the city has gone from generating revenue from it to having to pay for the service.

“I never think about the cost, so like what it’s costing Boston, no that’s never really occurred to me," said Emma Bethel, a Brighton resident.

According to O’Malley, in 2017 Boston’s recycling program only cost the city around $200,000, but this year, it’s going to cost them $2 million. For years, the city’s recyclables were sent to China, but now China has been buying fewer and fewer recycled items from the United States. That way, it’s cheaper for the city to bury those items in a landfill rather than recycle them.

“Sadly and tragically, you have many municipalities who are now opting not to recycle because of the cost associated with it,” said O’Malley.

With that in mind, the city has to find ways to cut costs; some of the options include;

- Curbside composting for food and biodegradable items

- Textile recycling for clothing, drapes or towels that still have value

- Cutting out the middle-man and having the city invest in building its own recycling plant

“I think it is probably an uphill battle that a lot of communities are facing right now," said Rebecca Drylie-Perkins, of Brighton.

Drylie-Perkins just moved to Boston from Northern California, where she says composting is popular in her town.

“It’s hard to get people on board with but once they do it, I think it’s pretty much one of our only options," said Drylie-Perkins. "We have to go that route eventually if we want to save our planet.”

O’Malley isn’t advocating for the eradication of a recycling program in the city by any means and says he’s looking for ways to solve this crisis.

“I think most people would agree that the climate crisis is an existential threat that we are facing as citizens of the world," said O’Malley. "There’s a number of actions we need to take and how we deal without waste is certainly part of it.”

Boston 25 News has reached out to Casella Recycling for a comment but has not heard back yet.