1. Reduce solid waste generation by 30% by 2030, including textiles, junk mail, and food scraps.
  2. Ban plastic bags and polystyrene in Norwood and promote sustainable/reusable packaging options.
  3. Increase public awareness of existing waste diversion options.
  4. Norwood achieves zero waste by 2050.
  5. Norwood creates a circular economy through creative solutions for production, consumption, and waste management.


  1. Increase composting, including adding more drop-off locations (schools?), raising awareness about existing composting options, investigating town-wide curbside composting. 
  2. Ban plastic bags and polystyrene at the town level.
  3. Town officials support expanded producer responsibility and updated bottle bill at the state level.
  4. Investigate alternatives to the current disposal system such as pay as you throw, fees for container size (maybe just increased fees for additional containers?), rebate, or incentive program where people who have smaller bins receive a discount.
  5. Investigate options for sustainable products and packaging and other ways to eliminate single-use plastics.
  6. Ensure that all town-sponsored events be zero waste/utilize composting.
  7. Ensure that all permitted events require the use of compostable materials.
  8. Promote use of options like the swap shed.
  9. Incentivize businesses to go green, possibly through a green certification that could be displayed or a directory of green companies.


Norwood residential households produce an estimated 9,075 tons of waste annually, of which 6,625 tons are sent to an incinerator while 2,450 tons are picked up as recycling. The solid waste is disposed of at the Wheelabrator incinerator in Saugus, MA. The single-stream recyclables are brought to Waste Management’s Material Recycling Facility (MRF) in Avon, MA. Incineration is not a long-term solution to dealing with solid waste. Incinerators pollute the air and water around them, placing significant environmental and public health burdens on the communities where they are located, many of which are environmental justice communities. The byproducts of incineration, ash containing high concentrations of chemicals and other hazardous compounds present in the waste stream, still needs to be disposed of. The state is rapidly running out of space for solid waste incinerator ash disposal. Not to mention the environmental impact and public health burdens the Wheelabrator has on Saugus and its surrounding communities. 

In addition to the significant environmental impacts, trash and recycling pick up is a substantial cost to the town. In FY 2020, the town spent $1.296 million on trash pickup and $440,832 on recycling pickup. A 5% reduction in the amount of waste we dispose of would result in $87,000 in savings per year, while a 15% reduction would result in $260,000 in savings per year. When demands for resources are high and budgets are tight, these costs could be much better spent on critical needs like pandemic response and healthcare, education, climate resilience, and other community priorities.

We can take one immediate step to address the solid waste crisis to eliminate food waste from our waste stream. Up to 40% of the food we produce in the US goes uneaten, and Americans waste, on average, one pound of food per day per person. If food waste were a country, it would be the third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases, just behind the US and China. By weight, food is the most significant contributor to US landfills. When it decomposes, it releases methane gas, a greenhouse gas that warms the planet at a rate 86 times greater than carbon dioxide over a 10- to 20-year period before decaying to CO2. Worldwide, food waste contributes 8% of all anthropogenic (human-made) greenhouse gas emissions. Wasted food also squanders 21% of all the water used in US agriculture. By buying only the food we will eat, we can significantly reduce these impacts and considerably reduce the amount of food going to waste in the first place. And any food that is disposed of should not be sent to landfills and incinerators; it should be composted into reusable organic material. Norwood provides several convenient locations where residents can drop off food waste for composting, and private services also offer curbside compost pickup.

To reduce the amount of waste we generate as a community, individuals, government, and the private sector must work together. Much of this effort will need to focus on behavior change and encourage stakeholders to reduce waste when purchasing, reuse/repurpose items, and compost organic waste. Communities like Sharon have successfully implemented programs to incentivize waste reduction, resulting in savings for residents and the town. Extended producer responsibility, expanded bottle bills, and bans on products like plastic bags and Styrofoam are also essential tools in reducing the overall amount of waste we generate as a community. Packaging producers should bear more responsibility for the waste they create (rather than the burden falling solely on consumers and towns). This fact prompted the Board of Selectmen to send a letter of support for extended producer responsibility to the state legislature in 2018. Outreach and education are also critical - many apartment complexes in town do not currently have recycling or composting options. Still, there are other options residents can take advantage of if they are aware of them.

While most trash is generated at the community level, the general government and the schools generate over 6,190 tons of trash each year. The Town should consider waste reduction programs in all municipal buildings, including expanding composting. Ensuring that all town events, like Norwood Day, are zero waste and utilize composting would also significantly reduce the Town’s contributions to the overall waste tonnage.

As a community, we need to reduce the amount of waste we generate (whether sent to landfills or recycled) and prioritize the reuse of materials. The switch to single-stream recycling in 2008 was an important step forward, but solid waste disposal has changed significantly since then. Although recycling remains important, recycling alone does not help us reach our waste disposal reduction goals—the list of items that can be recycled changes often and depends on market demands. The result is that we can genuinely recycle fewer and fewer things - recycling “better” may mean that more things will go in the trash because they are not genuinely recyclable. Plus, Norwood is currently doing a good overall job of recycling and a decent job of avoiding contamination of recyclables. Recycling also does not save the Town money; it is a significant cost that continues to increase. For these reasons, improving overall recycling rates and reducing contamination of recyclables will likely not have a significant impact or be the best use of resources.