Reminder Assistant Editor
AGAWAM Massachusetts residents throw away 1.5 million tons of paper annually, which is enough paper to fill Fenway Park to the height of the Prudential Center, according to the Mass Recycles Paper! Campaign.
In response to this crisis and the effect recycling has on curbing the effects of Global Warming, MassRecycle Inc., MassDEP and EPA New England have taken on an initiative to challenge Massachusetts residents and businesses to halt wasteful activities and instead recycle the 1.5 million tons of paper.
Earlier this year, Mayor Richard Cohen and the City Council endorsed a resolution to join the Mass Recycles Paper! Campaign along with over 125 other communities across the state.
"I think it is imperative that all city officials make sure that everybody recycles to protect our environment," Cohen said. "The more that the local, state and federal governments do to encourage [recycling] the more it will happen."
Tracy DeMaio, Agawam Environmental Protection coordinator, said the town's recycling education campaign which provided an Environmental Encyclopedia to each resident receiving curbside trash pickup has contributed to Agawam's decrease in trash tonnage.
According to figures released by the town, Agawam recycled 1,278 tons of paper but paid over $591,000 to dispose of 8,000 tons of trash. DeMaio said by recycling paper, which is 20 percent of the yearly trash, Agawam could save about $118,000 in disposal fees.
"We're trying to get those who are not recycling to begin to recycle, and for those who are already recycling to look for additional materials [to recycle]," DeMaio said. She noted that recycling has even become easier for consumers as they are no longer required to remove staples or plastic windows from envelopes.
Since the signing of the resolution supporting the Mass Recycles Paper! Campaign, various organizations in Agawam have been working diligently to find ways to encourage recycling and to join the thousands of other communities nationwide celebrating America Recycles Day on Nov. 15.
Local businesses such as Giessler's Supermarket donated 2,000 brown bags for the students at two Agawam elementary schools and the middle school to decorate with their own unique messages educating shoppers about recycling.
"It's such a fun project that says so much. Hopefully this student art project will help continue to send the message home about recycling and taking care of the environment," DeMaio said.
In addition to efforts being made in Agawam to celebrate America Recycles Day, the Mass Recycles Paper! Campaign hosted its official kick-off at the MassDEP's Springfield Materials Recycling Facility last Thursday.
Eric Weiss, chair of the Springfield Materials Recycling Facility Advisory Board, encouraged all communities participating in the campaign to do their part.
"The choice is not to do nothing. The choice is to do something," he said.
Laurie Burt, commissioner of the MassDEP, said towns such as Agawam have the ability to reduce the 1.5 million tons of paper thrown away every year, which would result in millions of dollars in savings. She added that the recycled paper remains in the state, which will make everything from board games to book covers.
Burt also noted the importance that recycling has on reducing the size of landfills, which emit methane and other harmful gasses.
"Recycling is a simple action we can all do to reduce Global Warming," she said. "Ton-for-ton recycling does more to reduce greenhouse emissions over any other [activity]."
According to the Mass Recycles Paper! Campaign, recycling the state's 1.5 million tons of paper would "reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about 928,000 metric tons of carbon equivalents or over three million metric tons of carbon dioxide."
DeMaio said for those wishing to recycle in Agawam additional blue recycling bins can be purchased from the Department of Public Works for $5. She added that paper products that can be recycled include newspapers, magazines, paper bags, phone books, cereal boxes and cardboard.
For more information on recycling in Agawam visit the town's Web site at www.agawam.ma.us. For more information about the Mass Recycles Paper! Campaign visit their Web site at www.massrecyclespaper.org.