Recycling & Composting
CET provides homeowners with recycling and composting advice
Whether you are just starting to recycle or compost or want to improve or expand your efforts, we can help you.
- Recycling along with reducing and reusing materials saves energy, money and reduces the use of precious natural resources. Remember, it’s not just about paper or plastic, and different communities have different rules about what materials can be recycled. Western Massachusetts towns have individual rules, some use single or dual stream systems, so ask your hauler, transfer station attendant or town clerk to make certain what is collected for recycling to maximize your efforts.
- Composting (reusing your left over food scraps and yard waste to produce fertilizer) is a great way to improve the health of your backyard and reduce the amount of organic waste going to the landfill or waste-to-energy facility. Follow the guidelines below to learn how to compost at home and turn that waste into “black gold.” For more information about composting at home, check out this post on our Go Green blog!
- Remember to recycle your household hazardous waste and electronics at community collection events. This action helps keep numerous unsafe toxins out of our landfills and our environment. Check our Events calendar to find when there is a collection day in your area.
- Reduce your waste today by taking small actions like taking reusable cloth or canvass bags on all of your shopping trips and purchasing coffee in reusable travel mugs. They may be simple actions but they make it possible for us take a green action every day!
Recycling is easier than you think.
Do you think recycling is difficult or confusing? Well, there’s good news — recycling requirements have changed over the years, making it simpler for you to take part. You no longer have to remove labels or keep track of many other recycling rules. In fact, most items can just be dropped in the bin.
Your efforts make a difference: for every pound of recyclables, you reduce carbon emissions by at least 2.2lbs of greenhouse gas emissions. Your community sends its recyclable materials to the Springfield Material Recycling Facility (MRF).
- Last year the “MRF” collected more than 50,000 tons of recyclables.
- That included enough paper to save 595,000 trees and enough plastic soda bottles to make 160,000 fleece jackets.
- Enough energy was saved by recycling aluminum cans to run a refrigerator for 65,500 days.
You have helped make our recycling program a success. With your continued commitment, we will achieve our recycling goals. Keep up the good work and let us know what you do to recycle.
Did you know…?
Massachusetts prohibits the disposal of the following items – so recycle them instead!
- Paper and cardboard
- Bottles and cans
- Narrow neck plastics
- Leaves and yard waste
- Car batteries
- TVs and computers and
- Large home appliances
Be sure to keep these items out of your trash and out of the Massachusetts waste stream by including them in your recycling bin or taking them to your local transfer station.
For more information call 413-445-4556 x10
Do you want donate building materials and household products such as cabinets, windows and doors? Look at the Center for EcoTechnology’s EcoBuilding Bargains Store to learn what we accept.
Start Home Composting Today:
Compost is nutrient-rich organic matter that has decomposed in the presence of oxygen (aerobic). This process of decomposition is called composting. Composting is a great alternative to sending food and other materials to the landfill.
When food scraps are thrown away in the garbage they end up in a landfill where they break down inefficiently, taking up large amounts of space and emitting greenhouse gasses, which contribute to climate change. When these materials are composted instead, they are recycled into a soil amendment rich with valuable nutrients that can benefit soil and plants. Let’s walk through how to start composting at home.
- increases the organic matter in soil and helps build sound root structure
- balances the pH of the soil
- makes nutrients in soil more readily available to plants
- diverts food waste from the landfills
- attracts earthworms, considered the “earth’s greatest recyclers”
- makes clay soils airy so that they can drain better
- improves the ability of sandy soils to hold moisture and resist erosion
- raises the vitamin and mineral content of food grown in a compost-rich garden
- reduces reliance on petroleum-based fertilizers
Healthy Composting requires 4 elements to work together:
- Temperature: Bacteria in a compost pile create heat as they work and grow. The best temperature for speedy composting is about 140 °F at the center of the pile. To maintain good temperatures, an ideal compost pile should be at least 3’x3’x3′. You can start a small pile and build as you go.
- Oxygen: Aerobic, “oxygen-loving” organisms work quickly and without odors. If a compost pile does not have enough air, anaerobic organisms will take over and odors will develop. Encourage aerobic decomposition by turning the pile whenever you add materials. Mix in dry leaves or straw to discourage matting down or compression.
- Moisture: All organisms, including those in a compost pile, need water for growth. A dry compost pile will decompose slowly. If it is too wet, the oxygen supply will be limited, and anaerobic decomposition could occur. You may need to add water or dry materials after dry or wet spells of weather. Do the “Squeeze Test” – composting materials should be about as moist as a wrung-out sponge.
- Food/Materials: The creatures that do the work of decomposition view our waste as their food. Microscopic organisms need a mixture of carbon and nitrogen to grow and reproduce. Generally, “green” or wet materials are high in nitrogen (decompose rapidly), while “brown”, dry or woody materials are high in carbon (break down slowly). Prepare materials before you put them into the pile by chopping up stalks, vines, large twigs, straw or hay, consider running the lawnmower over leaves to reduce their size and always remove litter from any yard waste.
- 3:1 Balance of Carbon (browns) to Nitrogen (greens): Carbon-rich materials include: dry leaves, straws, hay, shredded paper, cardboard, newspaper, brush, sawdust, pine needles. Nitrogen-rich materials include: food scraps, grass clippings, weeds, eggshells, coffee grounds and filters, tea bags, manure.
When is Compost Finished?
Finished compost is a brown, crumbly, earthy-smelling, soil-like material. It takes between six months and one year for a pile to yield a finished product, depending on how much attention it is given. You should not be able to recognize the waste materials that went into the pile. For best use, you can screen it before use for finer compost and put under-composed materials back into the pile to break down further.
How to Use Finished Compost:
Work it directly into garden soil (improves structure, adds nutrients).
Sprinkle it on the lawn to keep it green without much water.
Apply it around trees to feed the roots and reduce water needs.
Apply it directly to the garden a few times a year as a mulch.
Mix with potting soil for indoor gardening needs.
Tell us about your composting action, leave us a comment!
What should I do with grass clippings?
Keep your lawn healthy by leaving grass clippings right on the lawn. If you collect and compost grass clippings, mix them well with a bulky “brown” material to keep them from becoming compacted and smelly.
What should I do with leaves that don’t fit in my bin?
To decrease the volume of leaves, run the lawn mower over them before adding them to the pile, or wet them down and cover with a tarp to keep them from blowing away. Add them to your compost bin throughout the year to cover food waste or to provide “brown” materials for your composting recipe. Leaves and yard waste (not food waste) can easily be composted in a pile without using a bin.
Can I compost through the winter?
Although the process will slow down in cold weather, some bacteria activity will continue. Food waste can still be added as long as it is covered each time with leaves or straw. You can further insulate your pile by covering it with thick, dark plastic.
Should I add…
It is not necessary (and can sometimes cause problems) to add lime to adjust the acidity of a compost pile.
pine needles? Pine needles have a high acid content and are good to use as mulch on acid-loving plants such as strawberries or rhododendrons. Pine needles take a long time to fully compost. No more than
10% of a pile should be pine needles at one time.
wood ashes? Use wood ashes cautiously; they have a high alkaline level. However, they do provide potash, a valuable nutrient for your garden. Add ashes to your compost pile in small quantities – no more than a quarter of an inch at a time.