Recycling Survey, Part 6: Final Thoughts

by DAVID NASH

The shrink wrap model as well as the VCS experience with the Steamship Authority are useful examples of how to help identify and create new recycling opportunities and maybe even solve unique waste management situations. We surveyed Vineyard Decorators and noted the efforts they use to recycle polyethylene wrapping from furniture shipping.

Our survey didn’t include many of our local efforts to recycle such as the recycle operation known as “Dumptique” at the West Tisbury transfer station. This is the perfect example of how recycling really is nothing more than exploring alternative uses for materials and items before simply discarding. Farmers routinely recycle compostable materials in their fields and Morning Glory Farm takes that a step further by operating a passive composting facility which accepts leaves, grass and small brush. Keene Excavation uses stump grinders and equipment to create mulch from land clearing debris. Many businesses and individuals rely on the MV Community Services sponsored electronics collection events representing an affordable alternative to more costly disposal at our transfer stations and certainly a more acceptable environmental alternative then illegal dumping.

Businesses which have taken the time to evaluate their waste management options often come up with cost saving alternatives and many simply do what they can to maximize their efforts to recycle. Our local waste haulers are in a very competitive business but when we interviewed all of them we found a common theme to be a willingness to work with their customers to both save them money and make their waste management task easy and effective. Haulers can help deal with limitations to recycling such as cost and available space. Two of our island haulers, Allied Waste (recently purchased by ABC Disposal) and Bruno’s participate in LEED certified projects. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and is essentially a green building initiative which features a unique certification process to assure compliance with the standards and practices which LEED promotes. The framework of the LEED system provides for an identification, design and implementation of sustainable building practices, better environmental and health performance criteria, and discourages such practices as development on previously undeveloped land. LEED seeks to minimize the impact of a building on ecosystems and waterways and also tries to create regionally appropriate landscaping. It also focuses on many other building issues, such as energy efficiency, erosion control, light pollution and specifically building material reuse and recycling. LEED participating haulers need to

provide waste management options on site to assure that the post-construction management of wastes and recyclables is accountable enough to assure the correct management of these materials. The entire LEED process is extensive and the waste handling part is critical to its success. LEED compliance, however, is very expensive.

But for dealing with our more typical day-to-day recycling issues, we at VCS still advocate mandatory recycling as one way to bring about a rapid increase in recycling rates for both individuals and many of our businesses. We also advocate a central authority for the management of all island waste as a means of maximizing the opportunities for cost savings and innovation. Many recyclables are not yet managed here because we lack the entity to organize the effort, provide for collection and storage of the recyclable material, and handle the coordination of shipping off-island to receiving facilities. Carpet remnants and used carpeting is one such example. We surveyed a carpet dealer with a disposal problem but no effective means to recycle carpet yet post consumer carpeting can be recycled into various synthetic textile products. Building materials are another example of a lost opportunity but creating a recycling effort would require storage to protect the potential products as well as a system of management that would maintain an inventory and create a system for either exchange or sale of the materials.

So that ends our discussion of our informal recycle survey. We actually found few surprises among the several dozen assorted businesses we visited. Business on Martha’s Vineyard does indeed recycle but the lost opportunities are many and the effectiveness of our recycling efforts could be improved. This all results in potential recyclables being transported off-island where they are wastefully incinerated, the same way the rest of our trash is handled. The opportunity to conserve a resource and reuse these raw materials is then lost. Those surveyed would generally support mandatory recycling efforts. We found that the use of biodegradables and compostable materials is increasing dramatically and those who generate such items would be willing participants in a compost system on-island. These are issues not easily undertaken by business or individuals and need the support of government. Our County leaders and elected municipal officials can and should lead us into effective and efficient recycling and waste management practices. We seem to have a population which ardently supports the principles needed to make these efforts a success and we seem to have an infrastructure of equipment and capable officials to provide the ideal environment to help Martha’s Vineyard achieve these results and realize benefits for years to come.
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