Westwood Risks Contamination Charges


Sponsored by Westwood Environmental Action Committee

Contamination in Westwood’s recycling stream is quickly becoming an expensive problem. In December of 2023 Waste Management notified Westwood that the town is well above an upper limit of 10% contamination and will be charged an annual penalty of $25,000 in addition to regular charges if it is not brought under control.

Contamination results when residents collect their recycling in plastic bags and then put the bag in the bin, put trash in the recycling bin, or don’t pay attention to what can and cannot be recycled. We may think our contamination doesn’t matter, but with more than 5,000 households in Westwood, what we do as a community makes a huge difference.

In addition to costing Westwood more money, and diminishing the value of collected material, contamination also causes problems at the sorting facility. Plastic bags, bubble wrap, string lights, wire, rope, hoses and clothing clog up the sorting machinery. The whole system must then be shut down, sometimes for several hours, while someone is tasked with the dangerous job of climbing into the machinery to cut out all the tangles by hand.

What are the most common contaminants that residents should keep out of their recycling bins?

  • trash bags
  • plastic bags of any kind (even ones advertised as being for recycling)
  • textiles
  • hangers
  • loose bottle caps
  • holiday lights
  • paint

Many items that don’t belong in our recycling bins can be disposed of in other ways. For example, you can bring stretchy plastic bags, such as shopping bags, back to collection bins at most grocery stores. Each December you can find string light collection bins at Westwood High School and the main library. Polystyrene foam (egg cartons, coolers, packing) cannot be recycled; it can go in the trash. For information on what to do with string lights, extension cords, wiring and many other household items, visit WEAC’s A to Z guide.

Electronics and other hazardous waste should be saved for special recycling days. This year, the DPW will host a Recycling Day on May 4, a Hazardous Waste day on September 14, and a Recycling and Energy Drive on October 5. (Please see the DPW website for more.)

So, how can you “recycle right”? Check out this excellent video from the DPW, Waste Management’s helpful website, and follow these three simple rules:

  • Rule 1: Recycle only bottles, cans, paper and cardboard
  • Rule 2: No loose plastic bags and no bagged recyclables
  • Rule 3: Keep food and liquids out of your recycling

This article is sponsored by Westwood Environmental Action Committee and is published by Westwood Minute.

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