Falmouth Solid Waste Advisory Committee Considers Disbanding

Morale is low in Falmouth’s Solid Waste Advisory Committee. Suggestions of disbanding the 24-year-old committee came from members who questioned the purpose of the committee during its monthly meeting Tuesday night.

“We worked like mad on pay-as-you-throw and [selectmen] just threw it out,” committee member Daniel H. Shearer said during the meeting. If selectmen are not listening, said Mr. Shearer, the committee’s purpose should be questioned.

David Dubois agreed. He was unsure what selectmen wanted the committee to do, he said, and that if selectmen are not listening, the committee should be abolished.

The purpose of the meeting was to set priorities for the coming year. Priority number one, members unanimously agreed, was to clarify the committee’s role with town selectmen and to figure out if the future of the group was worth continuing.

The frustration felt by the committee members surfaced during discussion of pay-as-you-throw and the selectmen’s decisions last fall to turn down a $150,000 grant that would have gone toward funding a two-year project. Selectmen turned down the project for a number of reasons, mainly because it would force Falmouth to comply with state requirements including buying 20,000 blue bins that would cost $800,000.

David Dubois agreed. He was unsure what selectmen wanted the committee to do, he said, and that if selectmen are not listening, the committee should be abolished.

“Pay-as-you-throw was probably the most effective way to get people to divert recyclable materials and to get those materials out of the waste circulation,” said Committee Chairman Ruth F.P. Brazier in a phone interview after the meeting.

With the town now signed to a five-year contract with the Bourne Integrated Solid Waste Management facility, Ms. Brazier said that “there is no way the committee” would be bringing up pay-as-you-throw at the current time. This was and still is frustrating for the committee. The members believed it was the most effective choice going forward for solid waste removal in Falmouth.

Other Cape Communities Pursuing Pay-As-You-Throw

“All the other Cape towns are seriously thinking of [pay-as-you-throw],” said Ms. Brazier. “Trash costs are going up; ours is going up. The rate has gone up every year. In the long run, the only way to reduce those costs is to reduce what you throw away,” whether at Bourne or another facility, said Ms. Brazier.

While Ms. Brazier understands the frustration felt by many of the members, she has been part of the committee since its inception and thinks the committee will continue. “Many members are discouraged at how slowly things change, and how hard it is to be listened to,” she said. “But people like Ginny [Virginia C. Gregg, vice chairman of the committee] and myself who have been on this committee for 20 years or so, are used to this. It is frustrating and it feeds into general frustration with government. I suppose that people feel angrier about the slow pace of progress.”

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Plans for the committee going forward are to better educate the public on recycling, making it clear what can and cannot be recycled, and to make that information easily accessible. Ms. Gregg said that in this day and age, the rules are constantly changing, and finding a way to inform the public is important. They discussed actions that included writing a column in The Falmouth Enterprise answering frequently asked questions, creating a website, and passing out an updated list to the public through real estate tax forms.

They would like to assign someone in the Falmouth High School to work as a general purveyor of recycling on the school grounds. Ms. Gregg praised Richard Sperduto, the director of buildings and grounds at Falmouth Academy for a job well done encouraging waste management at Falmouth Academy. Mr. Sperduto spoke at a previous Solid Waste Advisory meeting and discussed practices such as composting food collected at the school that later became nutrients for the soccer fields.

The committee discussed ways to hire someone for a similar job at Falmouth High School, although they were unsure if funding would be available. Committee member Ray A. Rowitz said it takes someone with passion for waste management and an ability to lead to accomplish what Mr. Sperduto has. That is rare, he said. His comments were met with approval from the rest of the committee.

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