In the first week of August, four towns on the Vineyard sent 345 tons of garbage to the mainland. Things Islanders threw away ranged from a bicycle that a child outgrew to trash left over from a summer party.
Records from the Martha's Vineyard Refuse Disposal and Resource Recovery District show that in one seven-day period, from Monday, August 1 through Sunday, August 7, Edgartown, West Tisbury, Chilmark and Aquinnah collectively generated 289.69 tons of trash, plus 42.68 tons of glass, cardboard, paper and plastic and 12.3 tons of tin and metal. The trash filled 21 trucks going to the mainland.
The refuse district collected and shipped trash on six of the seven days. Some of the trash was collected at four drop-off sites and brought to the 12-acre central transfer site off the Edgartown-West Tisbury Road in the outskirts of Edgartown.
Refuse district manager Don Hatch said the week was typical of the six busiest weeks of summer. "From Fourth of July to the middle of August were our heaviest weeks," he said.
Browning-Ferris Industries (BFI), which handles the trash for Vineyard Haven and Oak Bluffs, refused to provide any numbers for this story.
The disposal of trash and recyclables is a complicated business; among other things the market for recyclables changes from week to week. "There is more of a connection between plastic and oil than you realize," Mr. Hatch said.
In the first week of August, 15 loads of trash were taken by truck to the SEAMASS waste-to-energy incinerator in Rochester, the facility that handles most of the trash from the Cape and Islands. The trash includes construction and demolition debris. Mr. Hatch said it is practical and efficient for the district to send all the trash in one load. Each truck can carry upwards of 20 tons, or the equivalent of 100 cubic yards, he said. The trip from Woods Hole to the Rochester facility is 36 miles.
The four-town regional refuse district is in the eleventh year of a 20-year contract with SEAMASS.
Selling recyclables like plastic and metal is much more difficult than cardboard and newspaper, Mr. Hatch said. He said there is an immediate need for paper and markets are willing to pay. "Everybody wants newspapers," he said.
Commingled recyclables include all plastics, whether clear or colored, tin cans, aluminum cans and glass, whether clear or colored. In the past, people who recycle were asked to sort the colors. Now it doesn't matter, even though sorting of glass by color still takes place at the central transfer station.
"It is easier for them [the companies that buy the recyclables] to collate the recyclables at their facility than to do it here," Mr. Hatch said. "They have state of the art facilities. It is quicker and less expensive for them to do the sorting than for us to do it here," he said.
With the changing market, Mr. Hatch said he will often ship recyclables to any one of three different sites south of Boston. He has no favorites, but ships to the place where he can receive the best price. During the week of August 1 through 7, the district made three trips to AW Martin Inc. in New Bedford. On August 1 the district sent 6.28 tons of cardboard and 9.13 tons of commingled recyclables. On August 5 the district returned to the same site with 11.72 tons of commingled recyclables.
On August 2, the district sent 15.55 tons of commingled recyclables to FCR Boston, a firm located in Charlestown.
Between August 1 and August 6 the district made two trips with three loads of metal to the Excel Recycling Center in South Dartmouth.
On August 4, the district sent two truckloads of metal to South Dartmouth. One container held 7.38 tons of white metal and another load contained 2.05 tons of refrigerators and air conditioners, which require special handling because they contain freon. Other metal includes anything from bicycles to dishwashers.
Mr. Hatch said the district contracts with Bruno for recycling and with Carroll's Trucking for trash hauling.
While he could not put his hands immediately on the numbers, Mr. Hatch said the district handled more trash this year than last year.
"Just as the community is growing, there is more trash," he said.