Zero Waste Resolution
Thanks to tremendous public support, on April 6, 2022 Lexington Town Meeting voted overwhelmingly to adopt this resolution that calls for the Town of Lexington to (1) adopt Zero Waste Principles and (2) develop a Zero Waste plan as soon as possible.
In response to Lexington’s waste problem, the Advocacy Working Group of LexZeroWaste has developed a Citizen’s Article for Lexington’s 2022 Annual Town Meeting. Article 27 is a Zero Waste Resolution and asks Town Meeting to (1) adopt and model Zero Waste Principles and (2) Develop a Zero Waste plan for Lexington as soon as possible. We have developed presentation slides and the above 7-minute video for Town Meeting presented by Co-Founder and Co-President Hien Nguyen. You can also read our Frequently Asked Questions below to learn more.
There are a number of problems. First, many people do not realize that Lexington incinerates its waste. We send our waste first to a facility in North Andover, and then resulting toxic ash is sent to a landfill in Shrewsbury.
Burning waste has severe effects on the environment and human health: It releases more toxic pollution than coal-fired power plants, wastes natural resources, generates greenhouse gases, and contributes to the loss of biodiversity.
It also transfers health and environmental harms to other communities and future generations.
The incinerator in North Andover is sited just across the Merrimack River from densely populated neighborhoods in Lawrence. Lawrence is recognized as an Environmental Justice (EJ) Community in MA. EJ communities have historically faced disproportionate environmental burdens … and therefore also disproportionate risk for negative health outcomes.
In addition to the environmental, health and environmental justice issues, the cost of disposing of Lexington’s waste continues to rise, in part because landfill capacity is also diminishing. As an example, the ash landfill in Shrewsbury is expected to close in 2028.
So we need to come up with new, better, healthier ways of managing our waste stream.
In Massachusetts, a neighborhood is defined as an Environmental Justice population if one or more of the following four criteria are true:
- the annual median household income is not more than 65 per cent of the statewide annual median household income;
- minorities comprise 40 per cent or more of the population;
- 25% or more of households lack English language proficiency; or
- minorities comprise 25 per cent or more of the population and the annual median household income of the municipality in which the neighborhood is located does not exceed 150 per cent of the statewide annual median household income.
A “non-binding Resolution” is a statement of values or belief that does not require any binding action such as a by-law change or a direct appropriation of funds. In recent years, Lexington has passed a Climate Change Resolution, a Systemic Racism Resolution, and a number of others. This resolution would have the town adopt Zero Waste Principles and also state its intent to develop a Zero Waste Plan.
As seen below in an inverted pyramid adapted from Zero Waste International, we first consider planning for zero waste by doing as much as possible at the top of the inverted pyramid to reduce packaging and consumption, and then move down to reuse & repair. Finally we consider waste as a resource that regenerates, such as composting, or true recycling which creates jobs.
The Resolution states that the Zero Waste Plan will:
- Include input from multiple stakeholders
- Establish goals that meet or exceed the state’s 2030 Solid Waste Master Plan waste reduction goals
- Recommend short- and long-term actions for
- local and regional programs
- education and community engagement
- Include a plan for town-wide compost services
- Provide a cost/benefit analysis on each waste reduction strategy under consideration
- Prioritize programs that minimize the impact on environmental justice communities
As a non-binding resolution, it doesn’t commit the town to any spending. However, if we adopt it, we will have agreed to (1) adopt zero waste principles and (2) develop a zero waste plan as soon as possible.
Based on conversations with the DPW, we believe it may cost about $20K to hire a consultant to help develop a zero waste plan. Working with Rep. Ciccolo and the Town’s DPW, we’re investigating potential grant funding that would cover this cost, but in the event that grant funding does not come through, Dave Pinsonneault, Director of Public Works, has indicated that the Town could potentially cover the cost.
Costs for waste disposal and recycling continue to rise; the cost to do something (i.e., develop a zero waste plan) will be far less than the cost to do nothing.
One of the primary goals of this resolution is to find answers to that question through the development of a plan that includes a cost/benefit analysis. We don’t believe we should at this point try to project actual cost, relative cost or even cost savings for any waste-reduction measure. What we do believe is that it is critically important to get some answers before our current solid waste contract expires in June 2023.
Although there are programs available for residents to subscribe to Black Earth, or drop off free to community bins, there is not yet a town-wide program that serves everyone.
There are currently two Black Earth composting programs for Lexington residents that the Town facilitates:
1. Resident subscription weekly pickup service for $99.99/year (the Town provides free toter).
2. Free LexSORT drop-off program at two locations in Lexington. LexZeroWaste initiated this 6-month pilot program in September 2021 with a CEL grant, and the Town has extended the pilot and assumed the cost until at least September 2022.
Food waste makes up at least 25% of our trash, and represents an opportunity to significantly reduce our trash tonnage by diverting that component to be composted. We understand that with the 2 programs above, about 12% of households are composting with Black Earth. In order for this to scale to 100% of households and reap the benefits of town-wide adoption of composting, we will need to provide a town program that is easy and free for all residents.
Relying on individual households one at a time will never achieve close to what we need for waste reduction. That’s why we are advocating for a zero-waste plan that would evaluate all the options, challenges, costs and timelines for offering curbside composting to all residents.
List of Supporters for Article 27:
Zero Waste Resolution
On April 6, 2022, Lexington Town Meeting overwhelmingly voted to adopt this resolution
THANK YOU to all those who voiced their support in advance to make it happen!
Lee Jeffers Brami
Rep. Michelle Ciccolo
Daniele De Francesco
Joyce & Robert Greif
Megan Klein Hattori
Janet & Frank Kern
Lexington Board of Health
Lexington Climate Action Network (LexCAN)
LPS Green Teams
Lexington Waste Reduction Task Force
Mothers Out Front
Eyal S. Ron
Mary Rose Scozzafava
Renée & Jochen Steinbrecher
Sustainable Lexington Committee
Nicola Sykes (Rinaldi)
Alice Van Evera
Christy Hart Waller