Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.
Robinson foresees some way of coming up with a visually clear and prominent display showing how much the town is improving its recycling efforts. He points to how hospitals might make a chart with thermometers to show what levels of money they have raised. “We’re in a good position to start correcting ourselves,” he says. “Not only will it make us feel better as a community—as residents of a town and citizens of our country—but it will help us when we renew our contract with Republic to show how much we have improved.”
Wellfleet, on the other hand, is not a single stream town. It makes residents sort their recyclables into soft plastic, tin, and paper/cardboard. Capital Paper Recycling of Weymouth takes Wellfleet’s household recyclables, but there is no program for glass or rigid plastics.
In June of 2019, the Town of Dennis opened its own glass recycling depot. Now Cape communities can bring in their glass for $60 per ton. Recycling glass used to cost between $20 to $35 per ton and is now as high as $100 per ton. It is crushed and processed to create glass aggregates that can be used in road projects and in pipe bedding. The hook: “For each ton of glass they bring to our facility, they must commit to take one ton of processed glass back to their municipality to use in construction projects,” says Dave Johansen, Director of Dennis Public Works, during the ribbon cutting. The rigid plastics that Capital cannot accept are now taken to a MERF off-Cape by another vendor.
Christine Shreves, co-chair of the Wellfleet Recycling Committee, recognizes the problem of contamination. “I was throwing out every little piece of plastic that I could, only to find out that anything less than two inches would fall through and jam up the machines,” she says. “Overall, recycling alone is not the answer,” she notes. “Reusing or reducing is the answer. And we put a lot of resources into those strategies.”
Shreves’ co-chair, Lydia Vivante, resurrected the Wellfleet recycling committee (started the 1970s) a year after she moved to Wellfleet in 2008, after it had been disbanded and Shreves spearheaded the effort to make the town’s popular Oysterfest plastic-free. They have also worked with the local library to make “A Library of Things,” where lendable items such as cloth napkins and swap shop silverware can be utilized for local events that would have otherwise used disposable items.
What is next? The committee has met with the Wellfleet Shellfish Advisory Board to discuss plastic alternatives for the growing local industry. “Our shellfishermen use a lot of plastic bags and ties, which unfortunately come loose and wash up on our beaches,” says Vivante. They are planning a fair where vendors can show the shellfishermen what products they can use as alternatives to plastic.
Town recycling committees are hoping their efforts lead to better recycling habits and ultimately viable markets for their waste. Improved coordination throughout the towns as well as assistance from Barnstable County and the state should help, all with a goal to make Cape Cod as environmentally efficient as it can be.
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