Cape Charles Town Council, during a work session on January 5th, has moved to discuss whether to budget curbside recycling for next year. This item will be added to upcoming budget discussions due to begin next month. The request to bring curbside recycling to Cape Charles comes from the Shanty proprietor Jon Dempster, who said in a letter that “In an area that relies on fisheries, aquaculture, agriculture and ecotourism for economic viability it is time we put more resources into maintaining these assets.” Dempster also argues that, while the costs to taxpayers will $70k+, the environmental benefits far outweigh this.
During comments, Waste Watcher representatives noted that Northampton County currently provides regional drop off centers, so the service already exists—in essence, do no harm. If Cape Charles residents no longer use the Cheriton facility, causing a meaningful drop in usage, the County could choose to close it, thus creating a much bigger problem for the Eastern Shore.
While Mr. Dempster’s concerns for the environment may be sincere, critics have told the Mirror that they oppose this measure because while taxpayers will be on the hook for paying Davis Disposal for curbside pickup, it will actually be business owners, which produce the most of the waste, that will benefit. They also warn that businesses attempting to couch a monetary benefit within an environmental sustainability concept is a tact that is becoming more prevalent on the Shore. As per Mr. Dempster’s request, instead of Shanty employees handling the recycling duties, the chore is contracted out to Davis Disposal, all on the taxpayer’s dime. While taxpayers already maintain the entrance and parking lot to the Shanty, this additional benefit would, as one person noted, “Really sweeten the deal”.
In his letter, Dempster also suggests that the increased revenues of the Transient Occupancy Tax could be used to defer the cost of curbside recycling. However, the TOT can only be used for tourist related activities, which recycling more than likely does not fall under.
While nobody knows what the actual cost will be, low estimates are $80 to $90k–instead of looking for ways to increase spending for a service that already exists, shouldn’t the Town be looking for more ways to save this amount of money? If the town were run like a business, would it manufacture a cash outlay for a redundant service? Also, how lazy are the citizens of Cape Charles that they can’t separate their trash, put it in a bin, and drive it 5 minutes across the road to Cheriton?
While recycling should be encouraged, as it has been in America for the last 50 years, the Town should do due diligence before hammering the citizens with more wasteful and redundant services. They should not allow themselves to be environmentally guilt tripped into making a bad decision. The reality is that recycling is complicated—as an example, metal, aluminum and copper are very efficiently recycled, however plastics such as HDPE and PET from non-bottle product systems are not presently recycled in a meaningful sense. Plastics recycling require a pure material stream, and companies who might otherwise make money from recycling it have decided that the waste stream generated by American consumers is too contaminated to be of value. So the environmental benefit of recycling is not always what it seems—in some cases it may be better to handle it as trash.