Recycling Survey, Part 5: Our Marine Environment and the Games we Play

by DAVID NASH

Martha’s Vineyard is a resort community for 16 weeks a year and the activities that define that type of setting generate a unique waste management situation. It is fast-paced and consumer driven. Vacationers don’t always bring their best habits from home and often forget that recycling continues when they are on vacation. (A message to those who rent their homes to vacationers: post reminders about recycling and retain a waste hauling company which will keep recyclables separate). We covered some of our fast food and convenience store situations in a previous report but this segment is more about our water dependent recreational opportunities here and what we can do to minimize the impacts of the waste generated during these activities. Fishing is one such activity. Bad fishermen can make a real mess with litter and bait boxes and bottles often greet beachgoers in the morning. Not that it’s an excuse for careless handing of one’s waste but many fishing spots lack recycling containers or even trash receptacles. More of both would probably help. As towns deal with increased costs to provide services this is one of the areas they often cut. Edgartown no longer provides collection containers at Wilson’s Landing, resulting in one of the most heavily littered boat launch ramps on the island. Litter often attracts illegal disposal; seems that some people don’t need much of an excuse to toss their waste to the side of the road.

Fishing line collection boxes are distributed around the island by the Martha’s Vineyard Surfcasters and most tackle shops recycle not only old fishing line but also the plastic spools that new line comes on. Fishing line manufacturers are very sensitive to this issue and make it relatively easy for the tackle shops to do this recycling. Larry’s Tackle Shop works with the Berkeley Company, fishing line manufacturers, using their containers which serve as mailers to recycle line. Most of the tackle shops will also take used line from fishermen who change their own line and recycle it for them. Like many plastics, monofilament fishing line never decomposes and carelessly discarded line represents a hazard to waterfowl, osprey, turtles, seals and other marine mammals.

Recreational and Commercial boating present very unique waste disposal issues. One of these disposal issues on Martha’s Vineyard has recently been turned into a successful recycling project with VCS assistance. Every fall, boats all over the island are cleaned up and winterized then wrapped in shrink-wrap plastic which conforms to the shape of the boat. In the spring, all that plastic is peeled off revealing a sparkling shiny boat all ready for the season. The plastic is then thrown away. This material is readily recycled but the problem is that it can’t be mixed with other forms of plastic. It has to be collected, packed and shipped to a recycling facility which is specifically capable of handling that material. Shipping materials off-island is costly as we all know and it is cost effective only when a large quantity of material is shipped at once. We have many small boatyards on the island and, so far, it has been beyond their capability to do this without help. To try to deal with this problem, a few years ago VCS board and staff organized the boatyards, got some help from the MV Refuse District, R.M. Packer, and the recycling facilities off-island, resulting in a successful recycling effort which has endured for the past couple of years. This is one initiative that we think could benefit from a unified waste district on MV by creating an island-wide shrink wrap recycling effort. In the meantime, the initiative could benefit from someone or some group taking the responsibility to manage the program yearly and perhaps seek ways to expand it.

We have so very many businesses which are seasonal in nature catering to the seasonal visitor and the day tripper to make their venture profitable in a short time. Recycling and waste management may not always be one of the first things they consider and many recycling opportunities are lost. Mandatory recycling may help here as well.

Next: Final Thoughts
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