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Trash-cost increase expected; YES! offers options

YES! storefront, East Arlington.

Liz Reisberg of Shawnee Road, a Precinct 10 resident with an interest in recycling, offers options to town trash issues. Photo by Ceilidh Yurenka.

Trash: There’s a lot of it. Picking up Arlington’s weekly trash represents a significant cost to the town’s budget, $4 million annually for collection and disposal. Arlington produces 12,000 tons of trash every year, about 1,200 pounds per household.

So far, there has been no cost to Arlington residents for processing any recyclable materials, as the hauling company could sell the materials. However, the value of recyclable materials has dropped, and as a result no longer covers the cost of processing (sorting and selling) the material.

Because the market for recyclable materials is not as strong as it once was, the cost of processing materials is being passed on to municipalities. This means that Arlington will soon be paying more for collecting and processing recyclables in addition to the cost for our trash to be incinerated.

Increase in trash contract expected

The next hauling contract is out for bid, and Mike Rademacher, director of the DPW, expects a considerable increase; the cost of picking up recycling is going to be a significant part of that increase. To control cost, Arlington needs to reduce the amount of trash produced weekly. Changing our shopping habits will be key, and we have a local solution.

YES!Your Eco Source, in Capitol Square in East Arlington, is the entrepreneurial venture of Ceilidh Yurenka. YES! sells products with safe ingredients, no packaging or nonplastic packaging, and carefully sourced from other small businesses that pay fair wages to their employees. YES! launched in January 2020, an inauspicious time to launch a business as Covid was about to change the world as we knew it. Despite that, the business has grown and thrived as more people discover all that it offers. 

Starting a shop has been a journey for Yurenka. For many of us, there are epiphanies that follow a sudden awareness of things we have taken for granted, like asking ourselves what happens to that trash that magically disappears when we put it on the curb.

Toothpaste-tube epiphany

Yurenka’s epiphany came after reading that every year approximately two Empire State Buildings' worth of empty toothpaste tubes end up in the ocean. The shock drove her to search for an alternative that she found in the form of toothpaste tabs sold in a refillable glass jar with refills available in compostable bags. After ridding her home of plastic toothpaste tubes, Yurenka rejected Ziploc bags, disposable laundry detergent jugs and single-use utensils. She found that many of the products she did want weren’t available locally, and she began to imagine a location where they could be found in one place. And the idea for YES! was born.

YES! is making an important contribution to reducing Arlington’s trash output. Many essential products are sold in bulk — large containers of dish washing liquid, dishwasher detergent, shampoo, conditioner, laundry detergent (and more) allow customers to bring refillable containers. (YES! has containers available to get you started or you can bring your own.)

Making it a habit; other options

It does take a little getting used to, like remembering to bring reusable bags to the grocery store, but once you get into the habit, it’s easy. Yurenka estimates that Yes! was responsible for keeping more than 3,800 plastic bottles out of Arlington’s trash stream in 2023.

In addition to bulk items, Yurenka stocks a range of products with less packaging. (Think deodorant in cardboard containers rather than plastic and unwrapped bar soap.). She also sells other assorted items that make great eco-friendly gifts.

YES! is part of a growing trend as more consumers make the commitment to decrease the amount of trash they produce. Additional such stores in the area — Center Goods in Lexington Center, Cleenland in Central Square and Trove Green Provisions in Medford — add great options for the environmentally concerned consumer. These stores tend to be open six days a week for easy shopping, though customers are encouraged to call and double-check hours during long weekends and holidays.

Arlington, like communities everywhere, must consider ways to reduce the amount of trash that we put at the curb for collection. Every household has a critical role to play in helping to manage our costs and our impact on the environment.

The group Zero Waste Arlington is another great community resource and has had considerable impact on awareness and behavior in town, but much more is needed. Recycling has been an important culture change, but it’s time to go to the next step by avoiding single-use plastic packaging and refilling those containers — reuse and refill.


Sept. 29, 2022: Business says YES! to E. Arlington

This opinion column was published Tuesday, May 28, 2024.

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Comments

Mark Kaepplein on Friday, 31 May 2024 00:33
Plastic shopping bag ban produced expected increase in recycling volume and costs

Everyone should have expected replacing often reused plastic shopping bags with easily torn and thus non-reusable paper bags would result in more recycling volume and costs. It is not even the case that Arlington's plastic bags ended up in oceans like Asian and African dumped trash. They got incinerated like the rest of our trash.

Everyone should have expected replacing often reused plastic shopping bags with easily torn and thus non-reusable paper bags would result in more recycling volume and costs. It is not even the case that Arlington's plastic bags ended up in oceans like Asian and African dumped trash. They got incinerated like the rest of our trash.
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