Recycling prices grow, rules get stricter

Contamination renders recyclables into garbage.

Members of the Edgartown board of selectmen listen to concerns raised about recycling bins approved for Main Street. - Brian Dowd

After approving the installation of five blue recycle bins in downtown Edgartown at their meeting last week, selectmen heard from Don Hatch, the manager of the Martha’s Vineyard Refuse Disposal and Resource Recovery District, who asked for the bins to be monitored due to the rising costs of recycling and stricter rules on what can be recycled.

Hatch said the cost of recycling increased on May 1 from $65 a ton to $100 a ton.

“It’s not a good situation,” Hatch said. “It’s getting stricter by the month.”

The issue is contamination. Hatch said one person throwing a soda can that wasn’t washed out properly into a recycling bin can contaminate all the other cans, which can then contaminate an entire container once it goes to the refuse district.

When garbage is collected, the refuse district sends it to Covanta Southeastern Massachusetts Resource Recovery Center (SEMASS) in Rochester. If recycling is contaminated it also goes to SEMASS to be converted into electricity through a shred-and-burn process. Hatch said it is cheaper to send the recycling to SEMASS at $64 a ton.

If the bins are installed, Hatch said, he wants to see how contamination could be mitigated.

“There’s going to be things put in there that shouldn’t be put in there, and how do you control that?” selectman Margaret Serpa said.

Selectmen said Hatch should discuss the blue recycling bins with Julia Celeste, whose family owns Rosewater Market and is paying for them.

In other business, the Edgartown Water Department was awarded a beyond-compliance award. The awards were given to the water department by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), with recognition from the state Senate.

There are 1,649 water systems in Massachusetts, with Edgartown being in the top 49, according to Bill Chapman, water superintendent. “We’re proud to serve this community, and we’re proud to work in the caliber that we do,” Chapman said.

Bad Martha Farmer’s Brewery was granted an extension to its summer entertainment license. The popular brewery will now have entertainment four days a week in July and August.

The request was met with pushback from neighbors who said the music can be too loud, but selectmen agreed to extend the license, and if complaints came up, they would review them. Selectman Michael Donaroma, who leases the property to the brewery, did not participate in the discussion or vote.

After extensive interviews, selectmen selected Allan Debettencourt as the town’s new highway superintendent. Debettencourt has been serving as the interim superintendent after his predecessor Stuart Fuller left the job.


  1. Getting too complicated and expensive….a lot more that could be recycled will just end up in trash.

  2. come on people, It’s not rocket science to build a structure and put in a system of sorting out the bad stuff before it goes off island. Any kind of system could easily sort out the nickel deposit cans and bottles and likely pay for itself with just that revenue.

  3. So it costs $100 a ton to recycle which isn’t working and it costs $64 a ton to make trash into electricity. Why are we trying to recycle?

  4. Today, 1,654 landfills in 48 states take care of 54 percent of all the solid waste in the country. One-third of them are privately owned. The largest landfill, in Las Vegas, received 3.8 million tons during 2007 at fees within the national range of $24 to $70 per ton. Landfills are no longer a threat to the environment or public health. State-of-the-art landfills, with redundant clay, plastic liners, and leachate collection systems, have now replaced all of our previously unsafe dumps. More and more landfills are producing pipeline-quality natural gas. Waste Management plans to turn 60 of their waste sites into energy facilities by 2012. The new plants will capture methane gas from decomposing landfill waste, generating more than 700 megawatts of electricity, enough to power 700,000 homes. Holding all of America’s garbage for the next one hundred years would require a space only 250 feet high or deep and 10 miles on a side. Landfills welcome the business. Forty percent of what we recycle ends up there anyway. We are not running out of landfill space. It has been calculated that if Americans keep generating garbage at current rates for 1,000 years, and if all their garbage is put in a landfill 100 yards deep, by the year 3000 this national garbage heap will fill a square piece of land 35 miles on each side. This doesn’t seem a huge imposition in a country the size of America. The garbage would occupy only 5 percent of the area needed for the national array of solar panels proposed by environmentalists. The millennial landfill would fit on one-tenth of 1 percent of the range land now available for grazing in the continental United States. And if it still pains you to think of depriving posterity of that 35-mile square, remember that the loss will be only temporary. Eventually, like previous landfills, the mounds of trash will be covered with grass and become a minuscule addition to the nation’s 150,000 square miles of parkland.

  5. I’m not a math major, but why in the world would you send anything to recycling? send it all out to be burned, and save the money.
    If your feelings are hurt because you cannot recycle. Bask in the warmth that your taxes will not go up because the town is spending money foolishly on something that is not cost effective.

    • viewfromhere— it is not always the most economic thing that should be done– I have a $15,000 septic system that handles the septic waste from my house. I could have spent $150 on an outhouse. If you compare septic systems to out houses, it’s really really foolish to spend all that money.
      Are the towns that have waste water treatment plants “foolish”? They could all have an outfall pipe 1/2 mile off shore, and that would be really cheap.
      There are cost associated with “cost effective” solutions to long term environmental problems.
      I am not a math major either, so why not just build a fire pit in your back yard, and skip the town all together ? You can even get matches for free in most vineyard markets.

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