Last Saturday, April 12, I went to hear Chris Flanagan talk about the transfer station and recycling in Durham at an event at the Durham Public Libary. Flanagan is a member of the Durham Middlefield Interlocal Agreement Advisory Board.
I had thought that we had a pretty good town “dump,” I just didn’t know how good it was. Our transfer station has one of the highest recycling rates in the state. We also have one of the most user-friendly sites, with two 12-hour days for drop off.
I learned I was completely wrong when I thought DMIAAB was the second largest taxpayer expense after the RSD13 budget. Actually, DMIAAB’s budget has remained flat for 12 years, a truly impressive accomplishment given the increases elsewhere. The transfer station has become a revenue center, allowing residents to dispose of almost all their waste, brush and recyclables for only about $130 a year, cheaper than most commercial or municipal systems.
Much of the discussion centered around how to think about solid waste disposal. The problem of contamination was brought up. For example, only one quart of antifreeze put in the 500 pound motor oil drum contaminates the whole barrel, so not only can’t the town sell the oil, the town has to pay for its disposal. Flanagan answered audience questions about how to recycle specific items, everything from cat litter to coffee cups to dry wall.
We all discussed the difficulty of communicating recycling requirements, changing American users’ habits and America’s packaging materials. Chris emphasized that municipal solid waste costs are kept down by encouraging people not to bring in waste to be disposed of at the transfer station. If items can be composted at home, reused by donating or selling them, or just not produced by using durable items, then costs will go down because there is less waste to be compacted, trucked off site and, therefore, reduced charges to the Town for its disposal.
Flanagan encouraged people to feel free to come to DMIAAB’s public meetings. Durham has a good board, non-partisan, with varied knowledge and skill sets. From my perspective, I found that, like most of our town Boards and Commissions, the members are knowledgeable and dedicated volunteers who donate their time, energy and expertise to help our town. So I and the others who attended learned a lot this past Saturday. I encourage others to recycle responsibly — and thank the DMIAAB workers and board members when you see them.
Durham recycles roughly 30 percent of its trash. For every ton diverted from the waste stream, the town saves money in waste hauling. Both the taxpayers and the earth benefits from recycling. Most of us know this, but are less clear on the actual practices involved. Does Durham accept juice boxes? Is styrofoam acceptable in the plastics bin? Did you know that there is now an electronics bin for old computers, cell phones and printers? On April 12, at 3 p.m., at the Durham Public Library members of DMIAAB will discuss what is happening at the transfer station, the effects of legislation and regulations at the state or federal level, considerations of the “pay to throw” policies and other matters being discussed by the board. Come learn what issues are facing our town in dealing with the trash we produce each week and issues that arise before the board.
Karen Cheyney is vice-chair Durham Democratic Town Committee.