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Thirty years later, recycling center makes positive impact

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SPRINGFIELD – In 1990 a regional effort was established to better cope with trash in quickly filling landfills. The Springfield Materials Recycling Facility (MRF) was founded and Congressman Richard Neal noted its 30th anniversary on Earth Day with a visit.

Neal was mayor of Springfield at the time and said it has been “a spectacular success.”

Neal recalled the neighborhood was dubious of placing the facility on Birnie Avenue, not far from the Gerena School, but Neal noted what helped sway them was the promise the North End residents would have first consideration for jobs there.

There are 74 communities in Western Massachusetts that use the facility. At its height, Neal said there were 101 municipalities.  

Christopher Lucarelle, area director of recycling operations of Waste Management, said the company has signed a contract to operate the MRF for another 10 years.

Neal said the MRF “has succeeded in raising the consciousness of people 30 years ago … and reminds them of the challenges in front of us.” He added that when it opened in 1990 it was the largest such facility in the country.

Lucarelle said although there have been challenges in the market for recycled materials “the volume is rolling in.” He showed Neal immense bales of plastics and metals bound for manufacturers. He said this material stays in the United States for reuse.

“There is a demand still,” Lucarelle said.

In a press release issued this month, Arlene Miller, the vice president of the MRF Advisory Board noted that with the pandemic, residents would need to revise what they are throwing away and what they are recycling.

She said, “Personal protective equipment, such as plastic gloves and face masks, are not recyclable and must be placed in the trash. Sanitizing wipes are not recyclable and must go in the trash. ‘Flushable’ wipes and any other type of wipes should be placed in the trash, not flushed down the toilet. All types of wipes are clogging the systems at wastewater treatment plants and personal septic systems. Wipes must always go into the trash. When placing household trash on the curb for pickup, or bringing to a municipal transfer station, please tie up trash bags securely. During the ‘stay-at-home’ advisory period, some residents are cleaning out and decluttering garages, basements, closets, and home offices. The Springfield MRF Advisory Board’s “What Do I Do With…?” provides information on hundreds of items for how to properly dispose or reuse or recycle. This A-Z disposal guide can be found on the Springfield MRF website (http://springfieldmrf.org/).”

She added, “It is suggested that residents separate items intended for reuse or donation into different categories, bag or box them, label them clearly, and store them until the stay-at-home advisory is over.”

Residents undertaking spring-cleaning efforts at homes should consider the following:

• CDs, DVDs, VHS, and other electronic media are not acceptable in household recycling. If selling or donating used media is not an option (some communities accept certain types via book donation programs), www.greendisk.com offers a fee-based, mail-in recycling option.

• Clothing and Textiles: clean and dry textiles and clothing can be placed in drop-off boxes for recyclers. Acceptable items include: all clothing and accessories including ripped, stained, missing buttons, mismatched socks, shoes and gloves; and linens such as curtains, bedding, towels, and stuffed animals in any condition except moldy or wet. Do not donate used facemasks. Please note that thrift stores are currently closed, but some drop boxes are still being serviced. Do not leave materials at overflowing boxes. If residents can wait to drop off items until the “stay-at-home” advisory is over, this would greatly assist organizations in managing materials with fewer staff members.

• Photographs and slides: glossy photographs are not acceptable in recycling because of the photographic chemical coatings in the paper. Slides and negatives are also not recyclable.