Official City of Worcester Seal Image

City of Worcester, MA

Announcements Image

Clean City Program: Fast Facts

For Immediate Release: 1/28/2019 5:20 pm

During this time of unprecedented growth in our City, it has become evident that the City needs to expand its efforts to combat litter, illegal dumping, and to address the overall cleanliness of the City. After a thoughtful multi-year review of how to accomplish those very objectives, the Department of Public Works & Parks has developed a plan that meets the specific needs of our community. Taking into consideration factors such as affordability, sustainability, accessibility and fairness, the recommendations in the Clean City Program, which takes effect in FY20 pending approval of the City Council, are designed to improve the City’s overall curb appeal, lead to a sense of civic pride for residents and business owners and instill a positive image of Worcester to visitors and potential investors.

The Program will consist of the following major components:

  • Implementation of a Clean Team
  • Citywide Education, Outreach, & Public Awareness Campaign
  • Provide and Maintain Waste Containers in Neighborhood Business Districts
  • Provide Annual Grants to Districts to Fund Neighborhood Based Clean-Ups
  • Expanded Hours and Services at the Millbury Street Recycling Facility
  • Curbside Textile Collection Program
  • Implementation of a Clear Bag Recycling Program to Address Neighborhood Litter
  • Introduce Drawstrings for Yellow Bags for Solid Waste


  • After careful consideration of all variations and options and only after conducting a Clear Bag Pilot Program, City officials determined that a clear plastic bag recycling program would be the most beneficial model for residents and municipal operations. The City of Worcester will implement a clear plastic bag recycling program beginning FY20.
  • Residents will receive thirty-two (32) gallon clear drawstring bags with every roll of City trash bags.
  • In order to fund the initiatives proposed and to address the continually escalating cost of the City’s recycling program, City trash bags will see an increase of $0.50 per bag.
  • Residents who need additional clear bags, rolls of ten (10) clear bags will be available from the same retailers who sell the City trash bags at a subsidized cost of $0.15 per bag or $1.50 for the roll.
  • Since the implementation of the “pay-as-you-throw” program in 1993, the bag fee has only increased twice, with the last increase occurring 10 years ago.
  • The bag fee increase will help reduce tax-liability of the City’s sanitation efforts and will be applied to the entire Clean City Program Initiatives
  • Clear plastic recycling bags are recyclable. Once emptied, bags will be baled and sent to a processing facility to be remanufactured into new bags and other plastic products.
  • The City is working with the manufacturer to increase the durability of both the clear bags and city trash bags. The thickness of the clear bags will be 1.5 mil, which is superior to most other recycle bags on the market.
  • The Clean City Program is the most fair and reasonable for all city residents.
  • The current anti-scavenger ordinance will remain in place. Residents are encouraged to recycle cans and bottles through a redemption center and benefit from the return deposit.

Why Bags?

Current Collection Receptacle: 18-Gallon Open-Air Set-Out Containers

In 2008, the City began single-stream recycling where paper and containers were combined into a single set-out container. While single-stream recycling made it easier for residents to recycle resulting in an increase in the recycling rate and a faster, more efficient curbside collection, it also contributed to the increased litter that is seen in neighborhoods due to the fact that many residents no longer place paper in brown paper bags and then use them to weigh down the lighter cans, bottles, and plastics inside the set-out containers. The 18-gallon container is considered the largest practical curbside recycling set-out container. The recycling set-out containers cost approximately $6.50 each and each year the City purchases approximately 3,000 containers (approx. $20,000). Manufacturers of recycling set-out containers also make covers; however, covers would prevent residents from filling the container above the rim and do not permanently attach to the container and can easily be lost or blown away. Covers cost approximately $5.50 each, which would require an initial investment to the City of $400,000 as well as ongoing replacement costs.

Two-Wheeled Carts

After conducting a twelve (12) week pilot program using 64-gallon two-wheeled carts, the City determined that this model is not favorable for a variety of reasons:

  • The City of Worcester has an extremely diverse housing stock, from multi-family housing units, urban housing developments and single family homes, among others. Two-wheeled carts do not work well in neighborhoods with a high concentration of multi-family housing where there is extensive use of on-street parking, especially in the winter months and where space to store the carts is limited. Residents in multi-level homes (three-deckers), elders and those with limited mobility may be presented with challenges transporting carts or contents for carts from their apartment to the street.
  • Carts result in higher contamination rate creating a more toxic environment. Collectors cannot see any non-recyclable items buried in the cart leading to contamination of the recycling waste. Other communities with PAYT (Pay As you Throw) and a recycling cart program have found are very high rates of unacceptable items buried in the cart, as much as 25% to 40%. This high contamination rate would result in higher incineration costs. The collector of a recycling set-out container can easily see items that are unacceptable. In a cart program, the collector would only be able to see the items on top and would not see unacceptable items until the cart is emptied into the truck.
  • Collection is slower than using set-out containers:
  • Each cart must be manually attached to the collection vehicle so it can be lifted and emptied.
  • Placement of the carts at the curb by residents is inconsistent; therefore, collector spends more time retrieving carts left behind snowbanks and parked vehicles.
  • The slower collection of carts may create traffic holdups
  • Carts often block sidewalks hindering pedestrian travel particularly those with limited mobility.
  • The cost of providing carts city-wide would be more than $2.3 million dollars (approximately $45 per cart) and would require ongoing annual funds for maintenance, replacement, and delivery.

The City of Worcester provides curbside trash and recycling pick up to approximately 52,000 households. Following the trash bag increase, trash bag revenues will increase to $4.5M or $87.31 per household for the year. Residents in abutting communities that hire private haulers for this service pay approximately $504 per household per year. The Clean City Program is cost effective and will save Worcester taxpayers millions of dollars.

Read the entire Report Prepared by the Department of Public Works & Parks.

City of Worcester
Customer Service Line
Monday - Friday
7:30 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Contact Us

Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram Icons
ALERTWorcester Logo  Smart911 Logo
City of Worcester Seal Image Worcester Public Schools Seal Image Worcester Public Library Logo
Home | Login | Disclaimer | Site Map

© 2019 Copyright City of Worcester, MA. All Rights Reserved.

Official City of Worcester, MA Website