“This is the country’s oldest incinerator, with technology that should have been retired decades ago.”
Spooky season may be over, but rodents are still here ensuring that we have something to be nervous about in the middle of the night.
Residents of Boston complained about rodents at a higher pace in 2021 than in the previous year. Last year already saw a surge in rodent activity driven by the pandemic shutdowns, with restaurants generating less trash, leading to rodents moving into residential areas in search of food.
We even hit a national marker; national pest control company Orkin recently released its top 50 “rattiest” cities list, putting Boston in 13th place.
“As people resume normal activities, food availability will rise,” said Ben Hottel, an Orkin entomologist. “Rodents are experts at sniffing out food and shelter, and they’re resilient in their ways to obtain both. After a year of depleted resources, residential properties offer the ideal habitat for rodents, and once they’ve settled in, they’re capable of reproducing rapidly and in large quantities.”
Public relations campaigns aside, residents have reported rodent activity to the city’s 311 line 3,395 times since Jan. 1. That number was 2,957 for the first 10 months of 2020, meaning the city is on track for a 14.8% increase in complaints from last year.
Rodent activity is also spreading beyond Boston’s borders. According to reports from Cambridge and Newton, the former city is actively seeking a “rodent liaison” to deal with the problem, while the latter announced it would start using rodent birth control to curb their increasing numbers.
Meanwhile, Watertown had to insist that its residents take their jack o’lanterns inside so that they do not attract hungry rats.
Gov. Charlie Baker announced his 2030 solid waste master plan last month.
The strategy calls for a reduction in disposal across the state by 30% over the next decade. Massachusetts currently produces 5.7 million tons of waste a year, according to the state’s Department of Environmental Protection, so officials hope to drop that number to 4 million by 2030.
Even more ambitious, the plan calls for the state to lower that to 570,000 tons by 2050.
“This report, and our letter to the Governor, makes clear that approximately one-third of our waste stream is compostable and the draft plan doesn’t go far enough to keep food and yard waste out of landfills and incinerators,” said Janet Domenitz of the Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group. “It also notes that enforcing current bans on trashing recyclable resources like paper and glass would eliminate almost another one fourth of material waste and an update of the current bottle bill would incentivize that change.”
MassPIRG is one of several groups that criticized the governor’s plan as part of the larger Zero Waste Massachusetts coalition. The alliance challenged the governor for not doing enough to reduce waste and support recycling, and for continuing the use of incinerators, such as the Wheelabrator incinerator in Saugus, that turn solid waste into air pollution.
“This is the country’s oldest incinerator, with technology that should have been retired decades ago and has an accompanying landfill for its leftover ash that is surrounded on three sides by wetlands deemed critical bird habitat,” said Kirstie Pecci of the Conservation Law Foundation.
Speaking of waste disposal, America continues to be a leading force in burying this planet under plastic trash.
The United States contributes 37.8 million tons of plastic waste each year, according to Our World In Data, which is second only to China’s 59 million, but with about a third of the population.
This is one of the reasons that a giant island of plastic waste has formed in the middle of the Pacific. A company called Ocean Cleanup, which is dedicated to attacking that island, recently announced that it removed 63,000 tons of plastic from the garbage patch. The group also announced that their effort only reflected a tiny portion of what is still in the ocean.
With that in mind, US Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon introduced the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act of 2021.
“Many of us were taught the three Rs—reduce, reuse, and recycle—and figured that as long as we got our plastic items into those blue bins, we could keep our plastic use in check and protect our planet,” Merkley said. “But the reality has become much more like the three Bs—plastic is buried, burned, or borne out to sea.”
The good news is that if passed, the new regulations would ostensibly cut down on plastic waste, such as single-use plastic containers.
The bad news is that this is a bill in the Senate, which despite not having a majority in power, is still under the control of Republicans who are reluctant to entertain any blue efforts, especially the greener ones.