Friday, April 4, 2008

Where Does It Go?

After we reduce, reuse, recycle...after we compost...what happens to what's left?

Chatham currently pays $52 per ton to haul and dispose of trash at Covanta Energy's SEMASS incinerators in Rochester, MA. $37.50 of this is a contracted 'tipping fee'. Chatham was prudent 23 years ago in capping its landfill and signing a 30-year contract for garbage incineration which expires in 2015, a scant 7 years hence. Upon renewal, our SEMASS tipping fee will more than likely double, and given today's uncertainties, the cost of haulage from now on will be anyone's guess.

We MUST get serious about reducing the waste going to SEMASS.

First, residents and businesses must recycle more. A reasonable goal is 50 % of the waste stream. Chatham's 2006 rate was about 21 %. 2007 numbers are looking better, the official percentage rate to be reported by the State in April. Recycling is not only the right thing to do for the environment, but the sale of recyclables generates revenue for Chatham, as well as removing the cost of hauling them to SEMASS.

Second, homeowners should compost kitchen organics, except fats and oils. (These should not go down the sink, rather put in the trash or take relatively clean used vegetable oil to the Recycling Area's oil shed.) Water is the bulk of the weight of organic materials and should be removed whenever possible.

Third, any hazardous waste should be set aside for Hazardous Waste Collection dates in Harwich, except mercury which is accepted at Chatham's Recycling Area. (This includes fluorescent bulbs old and new; NICAD batteries; some button-cell batteries from hearing aids and watches; cell phones; ballast resisters; thermostats; thermometers and smoke detectors.)
What's left is trucked to SEMASS' shred-and-burn facility which incinerates 1million tons of trash per year. This fuels generators which produce enough electricity to operate the plant and, via NSTAR, more than 75,000 homes. SEMASS recovers $1,000 in coins per day! 50,000 tons of other recyclable metals are recovered annually. Ninety per cent of the processed refuse is combusted, leaving about 100,000 tons of ash residue annually which is landfilled in Carver, Massachusetts.

The word from SEMASS? "We are the LAST step, not the first step, in recycling."

For more details, visit SEMASS.

Have you visited yet? Come take a look!

spot illustration © 2007 by Bob Staake - All Rights Reserved
article by G

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