BOSTON – This week, the Mayor's office announced Boston's first-ever zero waste plan, which is exactly what it sounds like. This comes after an in-depth report from WBUR earlier this week where MA trash processors said they were close to facing a trash overflow crisis.
According to the press release, "By implementing the strategies over time, Boston can reduce trash, and increase recycling and composting by about 638,000 tons per year, increasing Boston’s current recycling rate from approximately 25 percent to 80 percent by 2035. Approximately six percent of Boston’s greenhouse gas emissions come from the City’s discarded materials."
This all comes within the context of Boston promising to be a carbon neutral city by the year 2050, "By reducing waste, recycling more, and composting, Boston can reduce emissions associated with waste and move one step closer to its goal of carbon neutrality by 2050."
So basically, Boston wants to reduce it's carbon footprint by recycling more, composting, and reducing waste in general. And being carbon neutral by 2050 sounds great. Like me, you might be thinking sounds great, but... how, exactly?
Because, yeah, if tomorrow everyone in Boston started recycling everything properly and composting all their food we might make huge strides, but that's impossible. I took a look at the plan to see what their concrete ideas are.
First up, an important fact. 75% of all waste in the city of Boston is either recyclable, reusable, or able to be composted. Based off that fact Boston plans to:
-Invest financially in businesses that recycle, reuse, or compost goods.
-Modernize trash and recycling systems to be more efficient, effective, and equitable.
-Increase education about recycling etc.
-Enacting new policies (such as bans, fees, or new rules) that support waste reduction.
Some of those are really good ideas that can have immediate impacts. For example, new policies can dramatically change carbon footprints overnight (like the ban on plastic bags).
Some of those ideas, though, are less specific and thus harder to judge. Like "modernize trash and recycling systems." What exactly does that mean? When will this happen? How much will that cost? Which systems will we choose and who will be in charge of that? Same goes for the education initiative. In their defense, the city talks about marketing campaigns and grassroots education plans, but truthfully I'll believe it when I see it. Bostonians are, after all, not known for their willingness to listen.
The truth is, there are too many unknown variables to know whether we can actually deliver on our promise of being a carbon neutral city by 2050. But even if Boston does fall short of its intended goal, trying is likely better than doing nothing.