Recycling The Beach

Alert “06880” reader/concerned environmentalist Amy Berkin — a Weston resident who loves Compo Beach, and often picks up straws, bottle caps, candy wrappers and other trash on her early morning visits — writes:

I’ve always wondered why there are so few recycling receptacles at Compo — especially given how many people I see throwing plastic into the trash.

I usually try to bring my plastic home with me to recycle. It seems wrong sitting looking out at the water, knowing that’s where so much plastic winds up.

The other night, I asked someone who was collecting the black trash bags from the receptacles why we don’t recycle at the beach. He explained that the town has never provided clear plastic bags, which are required for recycle collection.

Compo Beach receptacle (Photo/Amy Berkin)

Even though there are a few recycle bins at the beach, it all goes into the same fill because the collection bags are not clear. The town collectors don’t have the manpower to separate the trash (nor should they have to, in my opinion).

I think the general population is conscious enough about the need to recycle. Can’t the town supply clear bags?!

I asked Parks & Recreation Department director Jennifer Fava about this. She replied:

The issue is not about whether or not there are clear bags. The issue is that in public places it is very difficult to actually have separate recycling, as once the bin is contaminated the contents can no longer be recycled. This can occur with just one ice cream wrapper, one used food wrapper, plate, etc.

28 responses to “Recycling The Beach

  1. Take your trash home !!
    It us not difficult at all

    Sent from my iPhone

  2. I too take my recycling home from the beach as I can’t imagine throwing out obvious recyclables. I’ve often wondered why we do not have recycling at the beach and am troubled by the conclusion to this. Why is something being difficult not worth doing? Given Joey’s sells plastic beverage containers like single-use water bottles, it is a shame when thinking about the amount of potential recyclables we are throwing out each season just because it’s “very difficult” to separate them. Other public places do this…Westport surely can be better than this.

  3. Richard Hyman

    I am working with a new org that recycles mixed and “contaminated” waste. Conventional recycling technologies do not but we do. Plastic can be mixed with other materials, no need to separate, clean or dry. We are about to retrofit our first ship, which will be deployed to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in April 2020. We’ll have the processing system on board. Garbage will not need to be returned to land. We can process while at sea and convert it to liquid fuel, to power the ship. We are now selling the same system for land-based applications, e.g. processing of mixed refuse. For more info. please contact me. – Richard Hyman

  4. I’m amazed that Dan actually got a response from the Parks Director. For months she’s dodged all questions about the status of the estimated 5,000 yards of fill contaminated with DDT, arsenic and asbestos which she allowed to be dumped in Barons South Park last June in violation of, well, everything. No one really knows why it happened but it looks like the dump – which had been a nice meadow for wildlife – is there to stay. Good luck with the extra recycling bins.

    • Pick out the visible surface debris throw some more grass seed down with Some wild flowers sprinkled in….water….and Voila!

      • Believe it or not, that’s EXACTLY what Parks and Rec Director Jen Fava did when she got caught a few months ago illegally dumping thousands of yards of contaminated fill in one of our public parks: she sent a crew over to the site to hand pick the garbage off the top and then angrily declared the problem “fixed”.

        • Lorraine Harrison

          For a Town like Westport, with so many concerned and sensitive to the environment, We need a Parks and Recreation Dep.. that shares our views.. I would like to be part of an effort to change how things are done here… Seems to me, an Environmental Attorney could sue the Town.. but before that we need a bigger voice. I am suggesting a group of us meeting to discuss issues and plan some action. I would be happy to organize a meeting .. This is an activist Community and we can do alot. I don”t know if Parks and Rec is poorly run or underfunded.. but we can find out and make changes.. please email me at you want to be part of this. Lorraine

    We could make this educational, teaching people how to do better (at home.) This is our beach and our future and
    ((This is Westport)). We were just in Greece where the recycling bins were open wire and the plastic bottles looked like a sculpture you’d want to contribute to…
    LOok to cities who are doing it, and have been doing it: Chapel Hill, Asheville…. Austin TX
    Where there is a will, there’s a way. No town has better resources or brilliant minds looking to figure these things out.
    How about a recycling task force? **i wd help**
    But, IMO you can’t just ((not try–because it’s difficult???)



  6. Stacy Jagerson Fowle

    I too am surprised by the lack of interest and effort by Parks and Rec re: recycling. To say that we won’t even try to improve recycling at the beach because there MIGHT be contamination makes no sense. Let’s aim higher Westport! I live in town and teach at Greens Farms Elementary and the students there do a beautiful job sorting ALL of their cafeteria waste into 4 containers: compost, liquids, trash and recycling. These same kids live by the beach. Imagine how confusing and disappointing it is for these young people when they have learned to do the right thing with their waste and then they have to throw everything into one bin at the beach. Sorting is the new normal at GFS because we aimed high and the kids embraced the change. We’d be happy to help Parks and Rec “sort” out this issue to improve this huge problem.

  7. Jay Walshon MD FACEP

    Perhaps if this recycling effort cost our residents $1 million the P&R would consider it.

  8. Use reusable containers for food and beverages.

  9. Arline Gertzoff

    All that’s needed is a couple of sets of colorful bins with a picture of what goes in.I was at a summer conference on Star Island and everything inc paper towels is recycled.The graphics on top help one out.Constructing this would be a great Scout/Youth group project that would promote fellowship and working together and it won’t cost a huge sum.Even a couple of glass and plastic domes would help.Small towns and large cities all over Europe have them and they are marked in large lettersAgain they don’t cost millions and do a lot of good

  10. William Strittmatter

    I trust everyone appreciates that just because you separate recyclables, that doesn’t mean they actually get recycled. I mean, Westporters are pretty well read so you all must have seen the articles. They’ve been in all of the correct news sources. For example:

    For those of you noting “but Europe does it”, they have similar issues.

    Adding recycling bins at the beach may make you feel good, but contaminated recyclings aren’t getting recycled as Ms Fava notes.

    Rather than virtue signaling by demanding a pointless blue bin or two, if you are really serious about this, the best answer is to stop buying plastic packaged goods (cans and bottles are better for liquids anyway and are more easily recycled), take your non plastic garbage home and recycle and otherwise generally reduce your own recycling footprint.

    Oh, and stop buying on Amazon and reduce that stream of unnecessary packaging. Shop and buy local. It may cost more but you are saving the planet.

    • Excellent points.

    • Richard Hyman

      I have been told that only 2-5% of the plastic that we think will be recycled, is actually recycled. I don’t have a source to reference. Shocking, surprising, disturbing.

  11. Sort off “politically polite”, weak answer from parks and rec director…

  12. Seems like a” politically lame , weak”, response from Parks and rec

  13. John F. Suggs

    Jennifer Fava with, once again, her ever ready excuses for why something can’t be done on her watch. Too bad she didn’t take her usual “can’t be done” position when the plan for dumping toxic waste in the middle of the Barons South Town Park/Designated Open Space sanctuary was brought to her for her “Okay”. With that she was all too ready to help make it happen. As best I can tell she is the only Director of Park and Rec anywhere in the USA to oversee turning a town park into a toxic dump.

    • William Strittmatter

      I know it’s frustrating but perhaps the same thing that happened in Fairfield over the past several years is now going on in Westport. If it is, you may not know for several years as, understandably, no one is likely to be talking about it.

      If you haven’t seen the stories, folks in the beach area complained for years about what was going on with the construction debris pile in town, capped off in finding contaminated waste in late 2016. Aside from cleanup, seemingly nothing else was going on to address the issue. Turns out, however, that the police department had opened a criminal investigation that just a couple of weeks ago resulted in the arrest of a couple of town employees and a contractor for a series of things beyond just illegal disposal of hazardous waste.

      Obviously it hasn’t gone to trial yet so who knows what will happen but turns out something was going on notwithstanding the appearance of nothing.

      Still, if you don’t think anyone is actually doing anything, you might file a complaint with the CT DEEP which generally takes a dim view of illegal dumping of toxic waste and will be all over it if you have actual evidence of toxic waste disposal.

      • I saw those lurid stories of toxic dumping in Fairfield. Unbelievable. In Westport’s case, formal testing was done after residents refused to accept the town’s explanation that if all the garbage on the surface of the dump was picked up, then it wasn’t a dump. The results came back positive for DDT, arsenic and other nasty stuff. Then residents were told “Well, it’s not crazy toxic, so we’re gonna spread this contaminated stuff around to other town parcels instead of disposing of it correctly.” The odd thing is that the town is so far refusing to comply with a Freedom of Information request in connection with this scandal.

  14. Come on, as previously posted on this site, people leave their trash lying around on tables, what makes you think they are going to properly separate their recyclables? I’m siding with the Parks & Rec director. Until all Westporters know how to follow rules (e.g., no reserving tables on the 4th, anyone????) there shouldn’t be separate recycling bins that will get contaminated and therefore be pointless.

    • Wendy Cusick

      I was going to say something very similar.
      If beachgoers can’t take care of the areas where they eat or sit, do you think they’re going to put items in correct bin?
      Recycling and garbage is a probelm all over not just Westport.
      One business and Calf Pasture Beach in Norwalk, I have noticed they bought huge bins with lids with hinges (i.e. brand name Toter 96 gallon) and cut a hole on top. It seems to work rather well for the bottles.

  15. Jalna Jaeger

    My sister walks Jennings beach daily in Fairfield picking up trash. She used to use recycle bins at the beach until the town workers told her not to bother. Too many people throw trash in them. They also collect it as regular trash. I once visited Google headquarters in NYC sure enough their recycle bins had trash in them too! I am not sure what to think about this. Discouraging.

  16. Michael Calise

    If it isn’t made there is no need to recycle it. It all starts at the manufacturing and product development level.

    • Eric William Buchroeder SHS ‘70

      Absolutely!!! I have been in the product labeling/packaging business for 40 years and I can assure you that the industry would change on a dime if they perceived a marketing cost incentive. Here in Cincinnati we have to pay the trash man for the privilege of recycling. There are so many ways to “live green” without giving up anything beyond minor behavior change. The politicians don’t like to talk about self initiated behavior change because there is no political hay to be made for them or power to gain. Same is true for controllable healthcare costs such as maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding substance abuse, firearms, distracted driving and unprotected sex.

  17. Werner Liepolt

    Why am I disappointed that we have an excuse for failure to address an important issue where I would’ve hoped Parks and Recreation would have a program to educate the public, set goals, and publicize results.

    Shame on us if we settle for this lazy, sloppy course of inaction.

  18. Lorraine Harrison

    I replied to a post from Morley Boyd and realized not everyone saw it. I am organizing a group of environmentally concerned Westporters to look at the recyclable issues as well as other issues which need to be addressed by Parks and Rec..Has anyone seen the 2 mostly dead trees in front of the Library along the river? Who picks up the garbage careless people throw on the grass near the river? I called Parks and Rec when their worker was using dangerous chemicals to kill poison ivy along the river. To my delight, this prompted a response and a safe method is going to be use. I look at the landscaping maintained by them and they do an abysmal job. There are weeds growing out of trees by the Library and an entire area of weeds roped off around a tree as if to protect the weeds. I am glad they do not use pesticides at the library(maybe because of the cost) but they need to better to maintain the area. I saw the Library hire a crew to weed a small area of grasses they recently planted. I am sure at an enormous cost…They probably did it because they did not trust the Town. In front of my house on Old Hill is a Town green. One of the P and R Managers, said they wanted to take down 2 beautiful ewe tree, tall and majestic,because it was hiding a pole with some historic importance. P and R chopped of over half of a lilac tree on the green 5 yrs ago and it hasn’t flowered again .I could go on and on.. I have received several responses and encourage you to email me if you want to be part of the solution. I am organizing a group .. please email me at .I will respond with my phone number and we can meet in a couple of weeks or so. Lorraine

    • You would think that Sustainable Westport, whose mission is, in part, to “help keep our parks green” could play a valuable role in mediating the removal of an illegal toxic dump from one. Nope. Despite strong initial interest, it suddenly fell silent. I wonder why.