Tag Archives: Recycling

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.

US Cities Stop Recycling. What Will Westport Do?

On Sunday, the New York Times published a front-page story:”As Costs Skyrocket, More US Cities Stop Recycling.”

It turns out that because China — our former number one customer — no longer accepts used plastic and paper, because it’s mixed with too much other trash, towns and cities across our country have seen collection bills rise steeply. The result: They’ve ended their programs, or now burn or bury more waste.

Many readers’ first thought was: “Holy smoke!” 

Their second was: “I wonder what my community is doing?”

To find out the 06880 answer, I contacted 1st Selectman Jim Marpe. He responded:

Pete Ratkiewich, our Public Works director, has been addressing this issue for several years.

The situation described in the Times article is also a reality here in Westport. In the recent past, international companies would buy US recyclables for reuse and repurpose abroad. As such, the town of Westport received compensation for its recyclable materials.

Recycling takes place all around Westport. This is the Farmers’ Market.

In 2018, China determined that US recyclables are too “contaminated” to be reused or repurposed, so that market has since ceased to exist (as well as in other countries such as India). So what was once a revenue generator here in Westport is now a cost to us.

The good news is that the town’s focus on recycling for several decades has “trained” all of us to think about what should be recycled and how best to do it.  Many of us still have and use our blue bins.

Up to the end of the fiscal year that ended July 2018, the town of Westport was realizing revenue from our recycling programs. But the cumulative cost effect for this fiscal year, and the next one we are budgeting for, is a total of $300,000.

We saw this coming, and have actively pursued alternative approaches along with a number of neighboring communities. Westport is in a consortium with approximately 14 other communities called the Greater Bridgeport Regional Recycling Interlocal Committee.

The GBRRIC — also called “the Interlocal” — aggregates all of our municipal recyclables, thereby increasing our purchasing power with private haulers. The GBRRIC recently negotiated a contract with Oak Ridge Waste and Recycling, and determined that the GBRRIC cost of recycling is now $75 per ton. As recently as 2017, that same recycling yielded a revenue of $25 per ton.

Annually, Westport residents generate 3,300 tons of recyclable waste. The total trash generated is approximately 10,000 tons from residents and 6,000 tons from commercial entities.

The state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection sets guidelines on what materials should be recycled. We believe that glass products should be removed from the list of recyclables and set aside from the other materials, given their high level of contaminants. We have found that glass has become one of the most frequently rejected recycled commodities for that reason, and also a major contributor to our tonnage total.

Our Green Task Force, currently being rebranded as “Sustainable Westport,” is leading the charge to find alternate solutions that either cut our recycling expenses, or reduce the amount of waste that gets generated here in Westport.  Efforts underway include a composting program at Greens Farms Elementary School, which will roll out to other schools and hopefully other entities as the pilot proves the value of composting.

Also, we plan to lobby the state to allow glass to be placed in a separate recycling stream, and to change related recycling regulations.

The immediate challenge is that the Town’s fiscal year 2020 budget will need to reflect the increased cost of the recycling process.

Pic Of The Day #423

The Westport Farmers’ Market strongly supports sustainable agriculture.

But its commitment to the environment extends beyond “grow and eat local.”

At the Market today, silverware replaced plastic utensils. One fork, knife or spoon can be used over and over, thousands of times.

Prominent signs pointed the way — and educated market-goers on the importance of recycling.

(Photo/Dan Woog)

Westport’s Newest Recycling Effort

Spotted this weekend on Main Street, outside Oscar’s:

Recycling

Westport is all about recycling. But there must be a classier way to encourage it.

Transfer Station Blues

An alert “06880” reader — who wishes to remain anonymous, as will soon be clear — sent along these thoughts, after a trip to the transfer station:

So off I go to the dump with my garbage and recycles.

Today a new sign (I’ve been out of town] greets me: “NO PLASTIC BAGS.”

But all my recycles are securely bound in white plastic bags. Everything has been washed out pretty good, though there is still a bit of liquid in the bags. I guess I should rip them open (they never untie) and dump them into the pods, right?

Then take the plastic bags and put them in the green garbage can. Try not to get anything on my clothes. You know how those plastic bags like to cling to other plastics. Gotta do a shake and shake and shake. Very, very messy.

Look, they even have steps for me.

But alas, the steps lead to a closed door. I’ll go to another one.

Damn, same thing.

Oh well, I’ll keep going. Whoops, these steps are so far away I’ll have to take each item out and throw them in piece by piece.

These steps are a bit far...

Finally, steps that lead to a nearby open door. I can shake here for 15 minutes.

I wonder if all the trash collectors have to rip open every plastic bags they collect before they dump them. OMG, what a task. No way.

A non-environmental thought crosses my mind: Throw everything into the garbage pit like we did in the good old days.

Unwanted Phone Books: The Sequel

From time to time, “06880” has bitched about reported on the obnoxious tradition of dumping phone books next to mailboxes, where they often sit seemingly forever.

Eventually, they’re picked up.  Then it becomes our job to dispose of them.  When was the last time you used the yellow pages?  Or called someone’s land line?

The more environmentally conscious Westporters try to recycle their unwanted phone books.  The other day, “06880” reader JoAnn Davidson drove to the transfer station, with 10 soggy phone books that sat by her condo mailboxes for at least 2 weeks.

Here’s what she saw:

How these puppies will be recycled is anyone’s guess.