Many communities and regional groups in Massachusetts received an additional but welcomed surprise on October 31, 2013. Not only did the Bay State welcome another World Series victory celebration on this, the day perennially set aside for Halloween, but the Commonwealth announced a total of $2.47 million in grants to be dispensed among 136 cities, towns, regional groups and non-profit organizations to assist them in efforts to increase the diversion, reuse, composting and recycling of materials in the solid waste stream.

These competitive grants are funded through the Sustainable Materials Recovery Program (SMRP). The SMRP offers funding for activities that will reduce the amount of waste disposed in landfills and incinerators. Waste prevention and recycling reduce greenhouse gas emissions by cutting methane production in landfills, thereby saving energy and increasing forest carbon sequestration.

Funds have been awarded in several categories, including: start-up incentives for Pay-As-You-Throw programs; wheeled carts for curbside collection of recyclables and kitchen food waste for composting; large containers for collection of target materials at municipal transfer stations; funding for local recycling enforcement coordinators; school recycling assistance programs; organics capacity building projects; innovative waste reduction projects and small-scale initiatives.

An alphabetical list of the cities, towns, regional groups and non-profit organizations that have been conditionally awarded grants can be seen here: pdf format of List of 2013 Municipal/Regional Grant Awards
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Two of the SMRP grants support the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection's (MassDEP) Organics Action Plan (featured in this newsletter), which calls for the diversion of 450,000 tons of food and other organic materials a year from the solid waste stream. Grants for the Town of Manchester ($44,998) and the City of Salem ($30,750) will help implement curbside residential food waste collection programs.

Another grant of $56,000 is targeted for the City of Newton to implement a pilot curbside residential organics collection program to gather data from 600 households on tonnage, participation and cost to install the program city-wide. An additional $30,000 grant has also been awarded to the towns of Randolph, Braintree, Milton and Weymouth to explore the feasibility of placing a regional composting facility on state-owned land in Randolph.

"With approximately 25 percent of our waste stream made up of food waste and organics, we need to pull that material out of landfills and incinerators and compost it or generate clean energy through anaerobic digestion," MassDEP Commissioner Ken Kimmell said. "When we tap into the hidden energy value of food waste, we reduce local governments' costs of waste disposal, cut air emissions and harness innovative new energy sources."

Other innovative projects funded by the SMRP grants include a plan by the non-profit Wish Project of Lowell ($50,000) to use a heat treatment process to sterilize used mattresses from hotels and other institutions and re-distribute them through social service agencies to those in need. Another involves a $100,000 grant for the Town of Eastham to upgrade its transfer station to provide a location for private trash haulers operating on Cape Cod to drop off their single-stream recyclables, making recycling more cost-efficient for haulers and businesses.

During this SMRP funding round, a total of $535,905 has been allocated for eight conditional grants that communities can use to implement a Pay-As-You-Throw (PAYT) type system for curbside trash collection. The grants will be disbursed to assist with start-up costs, such as producing public education materials, and purchasing PAYT bags and recycling bins.

Thirteen communities were awarded a total of $1,239,422 in SMRP grants for the purchase of wheeled carts for the implementation or expansion of curbside single-stream recycling. The grant provides a $10- or $15-per-cart subsidy for the purchase of carts 65 gallons or larger. Carts make recycling more convenient for residents, producing higher recycling rates and less trash.

Ten communities will receive a total of $81,269 to expand their recycling programs to collect targeted materials at municipal recycling drop-off or transfer stations. Grants are for the purchase of roll-offs or compactors for the collection of source-separated wood, carpet, "rigid bulky" plastics, mattresses, clean gypsum and source-separated food waste.

Four communities are expected to receive a total of $85,000 to support the hiring of local waste reduction enforcement coordinators to assist in enforcing mandatory recycling, compliance with single-stream recycling or compliance with existing pay-as-you-throw programs.

Four local school districts are expected to receive a total of $52,601 as part of the school recycling assistance program in order to implement or expand recycling of paper, cardboard, bottles and cans in all schools within the district.

Another 96 municipalities are eligible for $96,000 in grants - ranging from $500 for communities under 5,000 residents up to $2,000 for communities larger than 50,000 residents - to purchase items such as recycling outreach and educational materials, compost bins, outdoor event recycling containers, paper shredders for residential and small-business use, household hazardous waste collection efforts and rain barrel and kitchen scrap bucket programs.

There are a number of grants under the title of "Targeted Small Scale Initiatives," which mean those that involve a set amount for funding of materials and services that will sustain existing municipal waste reduction programs such as educational materials, public space recycling containers, compost bins, and other small investments that reduce solid waste or increase recycling.