Waste Reduction

The things we throw out have a large impact on our health and the health of the environment. All of the items we put in our waste bins are either sent to a landfill or incinerated, and both processes can pollute our air and water. We can reduce this impact by reducing the total amount of waste we generate, and by making sure that the waste we do generate is separated so that some of the waste can be reused or recycled.

Progress Toward Waste Reduction

Achieving Our Waste Reduction Goals

With 2008 as a baseline, our goal is to reduce trash 30% by 2020 and 80% by 2050. By recycling and composting, we’ve made significant gains.

Bar graph of decreasing trash levels and 2020 and 2050 targets
Four trash dumpsters lined up against a brick wall

Progress Toward Waste Reduction

Aligning with State Goals

The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection's 2010-2020 Solid Waste Master Plan calls for reducing residential trash 30% by 2020 and 80% by 2050 from a 2008 baseline. Cambridge has adopted these goals. 

Curbside Trash Tonnage

Annual Trash Collection

The amount of trash collected each year in Cambridge has declined 23% since 2008. This is great progress made by our city. We need to keep up the good work so we can hit our 2020 and 2050 goals!

Hands holding vegetable scraps over a compost bin

Household Waste

Waste Per Household

Much of the waste generated in Cambridge households can be diverted from the waste stream, and instead be recycled or composted.

Cambridge measures its progress towards the goal of pounds of trash per household per week. When this is combined with data on the total tons of recycled and composted materials, we can see how well we’re doing with both reducing waste overall, and diverting waste into recycling and composting.
lbs/HH/wkPounds per Household per Week

Waste Per Household

Pounds Per Week

Here we see a decline in the pounds of trash collected per household per week. This tells us that the City services and educational campaigns are creating a shift in behavior.

Waste Per Household

What's in Cambridge's Trash?

This pie chart gives us an excellent breakdown of what we throw away in Cambridge and the opportunity we have to reduce the amount of material going to our landfill and incinerators. As we can see, only 30% of everything we put in our waste bins is actually trash. The other 70% can be recycled or composted. Check out the How You Can Help section below to learn more.

How you Can Help

Get Rid of It Right - By Composting!

How You Can Help

Compost and Recycle Right

Composting and recycling help to minimize the amount of trash that goes to incinerator/landfill, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and yield useful products.

Citywide curbside compost launched April 2, 2018 to all 1-12 unit buildings. If you live in a larger building, please consider using one of the three free drop-off sites for composting.

Learn more about curbside composting.
Use the new Get Rid of it Right tool to look up if you can divert your unwanted stuff.

Click and scroll down to find the Get Rid of It Right tool.
Image of a dark blue recycling bin against a blurred streetscape