In this complex world, it seems everything affects everything else. And so, because Wall Street bankers metaphorically trashed much of the U.S. economy, the town of Tisbury was forced to literally trash much of its recycling effort.

Truly. It’s a bit of a convoluted story, but it begins with the amount of trash generated by the town of Tisbury, which was down 17 per cent last year, according to Tisbury’s director of public works, Fred LaPiana.

That might have been a good thing — given that America is drowning in waste — had it meant that individuals were generating less garbage.

But to Mr. LaPiana, it was another bad economic indicator: it meant there were fewer people on the Island, generating garbage.

And the decline in the amount of garbage, in turn, put pressure on the town’s waste disposal budget.

“We were seriously looking at increasing our prices [to town residents] because of the lack of volume of trash, due to the economy,” he said.

The cost of disposing one garbage can full of trash could have risen from the current $4 to maybe $5.

What to do?

Well, a solution presented itself through the town’s recycling stream. By making changes in the handling of Tisbury’s recycling, Mr. LaPiana figured, the town could save money and avoid increasing its rates for trash

And so, last November the town got a new contractor, Bruno’s Rolloff.

As Mr. LaPiana explained it: “In days of a tight economy, we’re trying to maintain our prices at a reasonable level, and we want to make sure the contractor operating that landfill is doing it in the most cost-effective way possible.

“That includes the cleanest recycling program possible, so he can get a return on his recyclable investment. That return reduces our costs.”

The trouble is, in the case of maintaining this cleanest recycling program possible, the new operators have enforced strict guidelines on what paper and cardboard products can be recycled. Only newspapers, magazines, old phone books — all tied in bundles, not left in paper bags — and corrugated cardboard boxes — which must be flattened — can be left.

And so over the past four months town residents who turn up with things that were formerly recyclable, such as office paper, envelopes, cardboard cereal boxes and egg cartons, are ordered to dump them.

Not surprisingly, the town has fielded a number of complaints from people concerned that Tisbury’s recycling effort is going backwards.

“I wouldn’t agree it’s gone backwards,” said Mr. LaPiana. “I would say the recycling effort has intensified, in trying to obtain a homogenized product that can be more easily sold on the market.”

He said the rules about what could and could not be recycled had not changed; it was just that the rules had not been enforced for the past few years, “because we thought the recycling business was getting to the point where they could include these products and still get money for it.”

“But the recycling market has changed with the economy and that just didn’t pan out,” Mr. LaPiana said.

“This contractor wants a better product for the recycled market. So, much of the contamination in our loads is not acceptable any more.”

He argued that the as a result, more of the material would be re-used.

But the end result, Mr. LaPiana conceded, was that “a lot more paper products might end up in the trash.”

Which will mean people will wind up paying more for their trash services anyway — recall that the whole reason for the new regime was to avoid increasing prices to the public — because they will be forced to dump more.

One of those questioning the logic behind the change is Larry Gomez, chairman of Tisbury’s finance and advisory committee.

“I want to talk to Fred about it from a recycling standpoint,” Mr. Gomez said. “You read in newspapers and magazines about all the things you can recycle, and yet here, you can’t recycle them.

“Cardboard used to be all recycled, now its only corrugated cardboard, and at one point they would only take cardboard that wasn’t made in China — I’d like to find some cardboard that’s not made in China. Apparently there’s a certain hue to it, but I don’t know that, you don’t know that, your grandmother and grandfather, they don’t know that.

“They seem to have changed that requirement now, but it’s made a hardship for a lot of people.”

Mr. Gomez, who also operates a bed and breakfast, cited his own circumstance; he said he was forced to dump about four times as much paper and cardboard as he used to.

Furthermore, he complained the brusque judgments of the new dump attendant, on what was and was not acceptable, were intimidating.

“Now you feel like a criminal whenever you take a bag in, and she looks in the bag. It’s like, what’s she going to find unacceptable this time? She’s a tough cookie.”

The new regime, he believed, was discouraging residents from recycling.

Mr. Gomez noted that the DPW is independent in Tisbury and does not report to the selectmen. There had been no opportunity for the public to comment on the change before it took effect, and no opportunity for his committee to look into its claimed advantages.

“I’m told it’s cheaper with Bruno’s than it was with [the previous contractor] Allied Waste, but I want to look into it.

“We’ve got to do something about this. We should be able to recycle this stuff. We live on an Island, we should recycle as much as we can.

“If this is a way for DPW to make money, I don’t think that’s fair. They should raise the rate.

“If they raise rates 25 cents, they’ll gain somewhere around $25,000 per year.

“I’m sorry we went this route,” Mr. Gomez said.