Every year Massachusetts is forced to export as much as 1.5 million tons of trash, which exceeds the disposal capacity of its landfills and incinerators.

To REUSE as much as possible, recycle carefully, and compost food and yard waste: these are waste reduction strategies actively promoted by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (Mass DEP) in its ongoing effort to shrink our state’s excess trash tonnage.

Because much of what we throw away nowadays is still usable or could be repaired, Mass DEP prioritizes reuse, redistribution, and repair over recycling as the best way to handle discarded goods and reduce municipal waste. As the state’s disposal capacity shrinks and local recycling programs struggle to meet higher quality standards, Mass DEP has become increasingly invested in diverting more of the reusable component from the waste stream.

Judging by the size of last Saturday’s Redfield Auditorium audience for a documentary on waste, public concern about waste problems is also at an all time high. The film, REUSE! BECAUSE YOU CAN’T RECYCLE THE PLANET, brought to Falmouth through Woods Hole Dinner & Movie, a film series, follows Alex Eaves as he travels to 48 states to find a host of fascinating ways to reduce waste through reuse of everything from T-shirts to abandoned buildings, from wine corks to demolition debris.

To quote last week’s Enterprise, Eaves found “endless reuse solutions for our waste problem that are not only sustainable but many of which are also easy and fun.” He showed how “reuse benefits people, the planet and the wallet.” Reuse and repair are, in fact, good for the economy especially the local economy.

Following the Woods Hole screening, Mr. Eames took questions and pointed out that merely growing the cotton for a single T-shirt uses 400 gallons of water, with more water and energy required in manufacture. Selling creatively refurbished T shirts not only saves vital natural resources but also, as the film demonstrated, helps support a local business and provides local jobs.

Although it was impressive to see how reuse stimulates ingenuity and creativity all over the United States, Falmouth residents do not need to travel the lower 48 states, as Alex Eaves did in his film, to find creative examples of and opportunities for reuse.

For many years Falmouth, through its Local Comprehensive Plan, has strongly prioritized REUSE.

Many people are unaware that “PICK OF THE LITTER,” a swap shop located at our disposal area on Thomas Landers Road, has been redistributing literally tons of used books, china, toys, sports equipment, small kitchen appliances, pots, pans, garden equipment, furniture, picture frames—everything you can think of, in fact—for decades.

For the price of a $40 dump sticker, any Falmouth resident can take or leave as much reusable stuff as he or she wishes. Our swap shop offers the most amazing assortment of merchandise, most of it in surprisingly good condition. People have been able to furnish an entire apartment with Pick of the Litter finds. (There is a charge for bringing a bulky item like an upholstered chair, because if no one takes it the town must ship it off site, but there is no charge for taking it home.)

Metal objects can be recycled in a dedicated scrap metal roll off at the disposal area at no charge with dump sticker. There is also a permanent display of scrap metal sculpture by a local artist.

For clean, dry textiles, even if torn or stained, there are donation containers at the disposal area as well as at locations around town. Falmouth also has a Habitat for Humanity Restore, and many consignment and Thrift Shops.

When it’s time to downsize or merely declutter your house, do please remember that Falmouth offers a full range of environmentally friendly reuse/redistribution options.

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