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Officials look to increase recycling awareness in the city

By Michelle Symington

Staff Writer

AGAWAM The city of Agawam is taking steps to increase awareness about recycling and plans to enforce the state and city mandatory waste bans, which may result in fines for residents who do not follow the restrictions.

Tracy DeMaio, solid waste coordinator for the Agawam Department of Public Works (DPW) explained that the city currently has the bans in effect, but "we haven't focused on them to make sure they are happening."

"We know people recycle and people are making the best effort to reduce solid waste," she said.

However, she said there is a large percentage of people who do not recycle at all.

"We want to make sure they understand the state and [city] regulation," she said.

The revised Massachusetts Solid Waste Master Plan, which was issued in 2000, states recycling should be increased to 56 percent while continuing to meet the waste reduction goal by 2010.

DeMaio said that in Agawam, the plan is to make residents more aware of the recycling program and waste bans.

"We prefer not to fine residents," she said. "We prefer to educate first. Those who refuse to do it are not just breaking a local ordinance, they are breaking a state mandate."

DeMaio said that the initiative is not just about recycling. It includes educating the public about specific items that are illegal to place in a trash can.

She said the fines can be issued to residents who don't recycle as well as those who place illegal items in their trash cans.

Banned items include:

Cathode Ray Tubes Any intact, broken or processed glass tube used to provide the visual display in televisions, computer monitors and certain scientific instruments

Whole Tires Motor vehicle tires of all types are banned from land fills. Incinerators and transfer stations can accept whole tires. Shredded tires are not restricted

Recyclable Paper All paper, cardboard, and paperboard products. EXCEPT tissue paper, toweling, paper plates and cups, wax-coated cardboard and other low-grade paper products

White Goods Appliances employing electricity, oil, natural gas or liquefied petroleum gas. These include refrigerators, freezers, dishwashers, clothes washers, clothes dryers, gas or electric ovens and ranges, and hot water heaters

Glass Containers Glass bottles and jars. EXCEPT light bulbs, Pyrex cookware, plate glass, drinking glasses, windows, windshields and ceramics

Metal Containers Aluminum, steel or bi-metal beverage and food containers

Single Resin Narrow-Necked Plastics Includes most plastic soda and juice bottles

Leaves & Yard Waste Leaves, grass clippings, weeds, garden materials, shrub trimmings, and brush one-inch or less in diameter, excluding diseased plants

DeMaio said that the above items are banned from regular trash pickup to ensure that they do not make it through the incinerator and cause damage to the environment.

She said that she is not sure if a large quantity of such items are being thrown away, but she did say the waste energy facility can refuse the city from dumping there if too many illegal items are brought in.

She said that she does not believe there is a problem in Agawam because "residents are very educated and environmentally aware of where the items should go and shouldn't go."

"We want to make sure we are able to teach as many residents as possible about the regulations," she added.

DeMaio said that she, along with other city employees, will drive the city's trash routes and note all of the homes that do not put out recycling bins Audits will begin on Oct. 24.

She added that they will drive the trash routes a few times because residents do not always have enough recyclables to put out some weeks and others may be on vacation.

Residents who do not follow the state and city mandates will be notified by mail about the violations. If the resident continues to refuse to follow the mandates, they can be fines $25 for the first offense and $50 for each additional offense.

"We want this to be a positive project," DeMaio said. "We don't want this to become something residents won't support."

She added that Agawam is a "great community" and she is proud of the residents.