Contributed by Claire Golding

The Waste & Recycling Committee’s (WRC) January survey received a robust response from Princeton residents: over 600 households answered the survey’s seven questions on paper or online. The WRC, which is charged with exploring options for a preferred hauler program that could offer residents lower costs while also encouraging waste reduction, was pleased with the number of responses.

“We’re grateful that close to half the households in town took the time to respond,” said Claire Golding, who chairs the committee. “That helps us enormously in our efforts to find out about the town’s waste and recycling needs, and also suggests that many residents may be interested in changing in the way we handle what we discard.”

Perhaps most surprising to Golding were residents’ preferences for the size of their trash carts. “I really thought most people would go for the largest carts—the 65-gallon option—since many households in town currently use a 95-gallon trash cart. But in fact their preferences were split almost evenly between the three sizes we offered.” The 65-gallon option garnered 34% approval, the 48-gallon option 33.2%, and the 35-gallon option 32.7%. 

“Nearly 200 households expressed interest in the smallest trash cart offered, and that’s really encouraging,” Golding said, given the state’s waste reduction goals. “It suggests that a significant number of households feel confident that their waste disposal needs will remain fairly modest in the coming years.” Golding added that, unfortunately, none of the haulers interviewed by the committee could guarantee providing a 35-gallon cart, as they are not currently in wide use.

Another encouraging trend is the number of households reporting that they compost organic waste—a practice that can reduce household trash volume by up to 28%, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. In Princeton, 44.9% of respondents report that they compost at home. “However,” said Golding, “that means 55% do not compost, so we hope to find ways to encourage more residents to try it in the future.”

Almost three quarters of respondents (72.4%) would be willing to pick up new carts from a preferred hauler (a one-time pickup only) at a central location to reduce costs. Somewhat more residents favor online billing (59.9%) rather than mailed paper bills (40.2%), and a significant majority (81.3%) prefer quarterly billing to single annual payments in advance (18.8%).

Additionally, 96 respondents expressed interest in volunteering at the Wachusett Watershed Regional Recycle Center in West Boylston. “I hope they’ll follow up on their interest,” Golding said, “because the WWRRC could really use their help.” Potential volunteers can access the WWRRC website at https://www.wachusettearthday.org/.

Finally, while 40.7% of respondents are aware of RecycleSmartMA, a website that offers advice on if and how you can recycle just about anything, nearly 60% have never visited the site. If you have a question about recycling specific materials, visit the Recyclopedia at https://recyclesmartma.org/.

The WRC hopes to release a request for proposals to interested haulers in early spring, and will be working on a draft implementation plan in the coming weeks. All WRC meetings are open to the public; dates and times are posted on the Town website on the Waste & Recycling Committee’s page: https://www.town.princeton.ma.us/waste-recycling-committee

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