Regional Trash Disposal: Long Overdue

Fifteen years ago Tisbury and Oak Bluffs decided to pull out of the Vineyard’s regional solid waste disposal district, figuring they could operate their own solid waste disposal system more efficiently and inexpensively. But there was never any logic to operating two off-Island transfer operations on a small Island.

Thankfully now there is a fresh look at the situation. A recent report prepared by Environmental Partners of Quincy reaches the unsurprising conclusion that trash disposal on the Vineyard is inefficient and costly.

For starters, the report finds the two existing transfer stations — one in Oak Bluffs, the other in Edgartown — suffer from a number of infrastructure problems, including poor traffic patterns and insufficient space to efficiently handle all of the materials that pass through. Only one vehicle scale exists at each station, compounding the problem.

Also, the Oak Bluffs transfer station is hemmed in all sides and offers no room for expansion.

The report also finds that a single transfer station would improve Island recycling programs, also plagued by inefficiency and lack of uniform standards. By putting a cohesive recycling system in place, the Vineyard can realize higher recovery rates and greater cost savings.

All six Vineyard towns would benefit from the economies of scale that higher combined volumes would bring them, not to mention a recycling system that achieves its central environmental purpose: taking as much material as possible out of the waste stream for reuse.

Rejoining the district will require working out many operational details, including the fact that the two towns and the district must adopt charter amendments.

But as costs rise and environmental pressures increase on and off-Island, creating a single waste disposal and recycling operation for the Island becomes more and more important. On this and other crucial Island issues, such as energy generation, balkanization is a dubious luxury the Vineyard no longer can afford.