Top 10 Ways to Reduce your Trash in Salem, Mass

Waste Management New Toters

With Waste Management’s new toters delivered throughout Salem, and automated waste collection that began the first week in November, a burning question on residents’ minds is

“Is this enough space for my trash?”

Rest assured, gentle resident! The trash toter (64 gallons) will be picked up weekly, the recycling toter (96 gallons) will be picked up every other week, and the lids must be able to close on both containers.  All of our conversations with Waste Management indicate that most cities find these sizes both easy to maneuver, and ample for their trash and recycling.

However, if you find that you are having a tough time fitting your trash into the toter, here is our Top 10 list of Ways to Reduce Your Trash in Salem, Mass.

1. Compost   Even though it’s too late to join our free curbside compost pilot program, Black Earth Compost is accepting new customers for a monthly fee of $7. Contact owner Conor Miller directly at for details.  Alternatively, start your own backyard compost pile! A healthy mix of greens and browns will prevent any smells.

2. Recycle – You know the basics –  cardboard, plastic, paper, cans, glass bottles – but we encourage you to look at the lid of your new toter for more containers you can recycle. You can be recycling orange juice and broth cartons, for example, or the lid of pizza boxes! REMINDER! Plastic bags still cannot be recycled at the curb! DO NOT bag up your recyclables; rinse briefly and place them in the toter.

compost fall toter

3. Limit your use of disposable items The convenience of disposables make them a reality in our lives,  from plastic shopping bags and paper coffee cups, to disposable diapers and tupperware containers. However, limiting your use of disposable items to special occasions like a road trip or big celebration party will decrease your trash substantially.  Even switching to just using disposable 1x a week makes a difference.  Try using cloth rags for light cleanups, and save paper towels for the messiest spills.

4.  Drop off your E-Waste – A surprising amount of electronic waste can be recycled -think keyboards, monitors, televisions, old telephones and more. Salem hosts a (quarterly) e-waste program that will take smaller items for free and bulky items for a nominal cost.  You can view SalemRecycles upcoming events, including upcoming quarterly e-waste, on our facebook page here.  Not able to save it and wait that long? Check out Best Buy’s free technology and appliance recycling, or Staples’ technology and cartridge recycling.  Additionally, the Goodwill drop off trailer locations in Vinnin Square and Peabody (at Stop & Shop stores) both participate in a new computer recycling program. Got rechargable 18-volt batteries? The Home Depot recycles them.

5.  Bring back your foam – UNFORTUNATELY – AS OF MAY 2016, there are no North Shore Styrofoam recycling options.  Styrofoam must be disposed of in your curbside trash.  For more information, or to check for more options – view our page of recycling options here.

6. Clean out your closets –  There’s a method to getting rid of your clothing. Anything that can be resalable, check at consignments stores in the area. I love this great list of North Shore Thrift Stores. If it is no longer trendy, but still usable, bag up and bring to Goodwill locations (see #4). They will even take items which are mismatched and sell them. Items must be odor free and clean!

SalemRecycles is partnering with Goodwill this November to repeat our popular Textile Drive. You can save up your clothes and textiles like sheets, shoes, and purses and bring them to Riley Plaza on November 21st between 8:00 am and 3:00 pm. Here is the facebook event page.

SalemRecycles at the 2014 Textile Drive

SalemRecycles at the 2014 Textile Drive

7.  Recycle Bulky Rigid Plastics – What are bulky rigid plastics, you ask? These items are typically large, solid, plastic items – think plastic Adirondack chairs, leaf rakes, Fisher Price toys, sleds, and old trash barrels.  They can’t be recycled in your curbside toter, but they can be brought to 53 Jefferson Avenue between 7am and 3pm on M-F. Saturday hours are 7am to 11a.

8. Give stuff away that you no longer need – if it is still in usable condition. The options are endless – you can donate, hit the thrift stores, post on Freecycle, Craigslist, or Facebook, or pass them on to a friend. I loved receiving a used crib from a friend before my son was born, and then I passed it along when he outgrew the bed.

Don’t forget, any large bulky items that do not fit in your new toter must be scheduled for pickup by Waste Management by phoning (800-972-4545). So if you have a couch, mattress, or additional item, don’t forget to call it in!

9. Make conscious purchasing choices to opt for stuff with less packaging – Perhaps your problem isn’t too much trash, but too much recycling? If so, opt to buy in bulk, or choose items which use less packaging. An easy way to reduce packaging is to purchase items used without tags and boxes, purchase directly from a vendor (think Christmas fairs), or forgo items like bottled water.

10.  Check’s A-Z guide for ways to repurpose / recycle things you might not have been aware of before.  Here is our handy list.  Let us know if any of the links no longer work.

This post was written by Beth Melillo, a member of SalemRecycles committee and a dedicated trash-reducer. 

Last updated: 4/12/2017