Waste Audits for Municipalities

Why should towns do waste audits?

Massachusetts is quickly converging on a point of crisis when it comes to waste, as an increasing amount of our waste gets shipped to the Midwest and costs are starting to dramatically increase. The importance of minimizing trash, and maximizing diversion to recycling, composting, and specialized niches like curbside collection of textiles, electronics, and other wastes will increase. Black Earth understands better than anybody, the intricacies of organics which makes up 33% of the waste stream and will be growing as more and more items are made with compostable packaging. On the west coast for the past ten years, municipalities have been performing city-wide waste audits to minimize the volume of trash and educate residents on how and why its important. It’s only a matter of time before this starts happening in your town. The cleaner the waste streams, the more efficient the processing is, and we want to help towns capture the economic gains from cleaner waste diversion. 

Why Black Earth?

Black Earth already does small audits whenever a driver picks up a 13 gallon bin from a resident. If there’s contamination, a note is made on the driver’s app for that stop, and residents are emailed what the problem is. We would extend this into the recycling and trash realms with the city’s permission. Our drivers and staff come to work for us because they are environmentalists, and want to help us tackle the waste problem. We all live in this state, and want to make an effort to make it better. That's our motivation for wanting to clean up the waste stream. 

How it Works

Option 1) Black Earth goes from one neighborhood to the next, eventually covering the whole town, doing micro-searches. Looking for problematic houses that are not “good enough” (approx 95% clean) yet, as in their contamination rates are too high, or their diversion rates too low. We dig in deep there, and leave notes on wire wickets attached to their bin, including an email address and phone number to call if they need more clarification. After three warnings, we issue a fine either directly or through the town, and the house doesn’t get collection that week. We continue until the whole population is deemed “Good enough.” We want to work with the town to be paid through the savings a town experiences from more diversion and cleaner waste streams. Our incentives are aligned with the town for these two goals.

Option 2) Residents that sign up for audits through Black Earth, get reimbursed from the town for their participation. People that don’t participate pay higher rates. Signing up for audits with Black Earth enables us to communicate online much easier with pictures and emails. This is the most efficient way to get residents trained, and rewards the champion diverters at the expense of those that do not participate. It also pulls them into the Black Earth ecosystem of hyper efficient collections of other niche items like textiles, e-waste, and in the future, universal waste. An added benefit is becoming more aware of important environmental initiatives like switching to organic yard care to limit the chemical runoff of fertilizers and pesticides. In this option, residents pay us to compost and sign up for the auditing program, and the town reimburses the resident directly, so there is no contract or financial connection between the town and Black Earth. If a resident fails the audit more than three times in a row, or 10 times in a year, we notify the town not to reimburse them. This is a great first step for towns to address through private markets, how to drive environmental initiatives across the spectrum.