Making Democracy Work

Solid Waste Advisory Committee

Suzanne Thomas, Observer

Submitted February2018

Here in Falmouth, most residents have curbside pickup of trash ("solid waste") and recyclables. They are taken away on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. But where is "away"? How can Falmouth reduce the cost of its solid waste removal and improve recycling? What should and should not be thrown into the trash or recycling bins? How does Falmouth compare to other towns in Massachusetts when it comes to handling its solid waste and recycling? These are all issues discussed at Solid Waste Advisory Committee meetings. The members of the Solid Waste Advisory Committee are:

  • Linda Davis (Chair)
  • Jon Snyder (Vice Chairman)
  • Chris Polloni (Secretary)
  • Marc Finneran
  • Virginia Gregg
  • William Peck
  • Ruth Brazier (member until June 2017)
  • Alan Robinson (new member as of July 2017)

This volunteer committee meets on the 1st Tuesday of the month in Town Hall at 7:30pm. I have been observing this committee since May 2017, attending most monthly meetings.

Several members have been on this committee for many years. In general, the members work well together. The meetings are not televised. Few members of the public come to the meetings, although members of citizen groups such as Litter-Free Falmouth, Refill Reuse Falmouth, and the local business Compost With Me have attended meetings to foster cooperation with and/or give advice to the committee. Selectman Megan English Braga also attends committee meetings occasionally. Meetings generally begin on time and follow the agenda posted online beforehand. Some meetings have been rescheduled and these new times or dates were not updated. Minutes (taken by Secretary Chris Polloni) of most meetings are on the Town of Falmouth website after they are approved. Attendance at the meetings is very good and usually all members are at the monthly meetings.

The biggest issues the committee is addressing right now are the introduction of a mandatory recycling bylaw to the Board of Selectmen and the funding of a solid waste manager for the Town of Falmouth. This manager would work with the solid waste/recycling hauler and the public to make sure recyclable and hazardous items stay out of the trash. One focus of the committee is to educate the public about solid waste and recycling. Part of this education includes monthly "Talking Trash" articles in the Falmouth Enterprise written by Linda Davis. She and Jon Snyder have also appeared on Falmouth Community TV doing public service announcements discussing recycling and hazardous waste disposal.

Several members of the committee have been working diligently to make the Swap Shop at the Town of Falmouth Waste Management Facility on Thomas B. Landers Road more functional by keeping it organized. Unwanted, but useable, items can be dropped off at the Swap Shop, where others may bring things home for free. This helps to keep useable items out of our trash stream.

The committee stays informed regarding waste/recycling issues at the local, county, and state level. Members attend meetings on recycling throughout Massachusetts. At the local level, the committee visited the Bourne Landfill (the destination of Falmouth's trash) to observe the facility's operation in May 2017. Recyclable material in Falmouth's trash is an issue and costs the town money. Food waste in our trash stream also raises our waste disposal fees because food waste can be quite heavy. The committee is exploring food waste composting for Falmouth and a composting subcommittee has recently been formed.

Also attending most meetings since April 2017 is Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection Municipal Assistance Coordinator Kari Parcell. Ms. Parcell assists the committee with her broad knowledge of waste reduction and recycling and by alerting them to composting and recycling grant opportunities. She works well with the Committee and is very helpful familiarizing them with technical grant jargon and alerting them to regional meetings and workshops.

Overall, the Solid Waste Advisory Committee strives to educate the public about recycling and the proper disposal of waste, keep usable items out of the waste stream, and explore ways keep our waste disposal costs as low as possible.