Letter to the editor: In regard to picking from the dump

Posted:  Wednesday, November 29, 2017 - 7:00am

In regards to picking at the transfer station:

"We need to start thinking and behaving like we live on an island." This is a quote I remember from a documentary I watched years ago and it has stuck with me. The person who made the statement was making the point that if we (a community, town, city, state) lived isolated, on an island, we would have to make do with the resources available to us, and just as important, we would have to keep them sustainable for survival. If you knew you had just enough resources to sustain your population, but no more, you would be very careful what you considered "waste." And since you have a limited amount of space, you would also have to be very careful about how much waste you produced and where you put it.

I happen to be able to confirm this with someone I worked with a few years ago. He was from the island country of Jamaica. One day I asked him, "What happens to all the garbage in Jamaica? Does it get shipped somewhere?" He told me no. "Whatever you don't want or need anymore goes to another family member or friend and they use it. There is very little waste in Jamaica, it is too expensive to ship it away, and it is too expensive to buy new items and get them shipped to the island, so we use and reuse what we have."
This is how we need to start thinking. Midcoast Solid Waste Corp. needs to become the Midcoast Resource and Recovery Corp., and the first step in doing that is to allow people to peruse and remove items from the transfer station in order to reuse them. The concern about citizens getting hurt by picking something up that is either broken or sharp is apparently our biggest barrier to this. Liability. Not logistics, not laws, not even politics are barriers to this idea.

Liability. The fear of what could happen. Liability. The fear of possible harm. Liability. The fear that someone might get hurt.

And in some sense, our towns' selectmen are right to be concerned. As selectmen they are responsible for their community, and the community entrusts them to do the right thing, especially when it comes to liability, exposure and finances. But this is where we must be bold and have the courage to do just that, "the right thing."

It will not be easy, and that's ok. Doing the right thing usually isn't. Could someone get hurt? Yes. Will someone get hurt? Who knows? But the good that could come from reusing items and helping our neighbors, and ourselves, should outweigh the potential risks. What we need to do is design a system at the transfer station that minimizes risk as much as possible, minimizes it to a point that makes the idea of recycling and reusing a reality -- and soon.

What I am asking is that the MCSW Board of Directors not make a hasty decision with regards to this subject. Why? Why is this so important? Glad you asked...

First, I mentioned the needs of the citizens from our four towns. It could provide a nice financial break for those who could use such discarded items. There would also be a financial benefit to the four towns, in that we could stave off filling the landfill if we could divert reusable items from it.

Second, the environmental impact would be calculable. Not only by keeping items from the landfill, but also in the carbon and pollution offset from citizens not purchasing items made with nonrenewable energy.

Third, and most importantly, the ripple effect. Right now most transfer stations in Maine do not allow picking. If Midcoast Solid Waste and the four towns were to be able to design a system in which reusable items were allowed to be removed at a minimum risk, then we might just start a ripple effect and other stations might follow our example. If this were to happen, the positive financial and environmental effects to the State of Maine could create a legacy felt by our children and grandchildren.

Again, I ask the MCSW Board to not take this matter lightly. The people have entrusted you to not only do what is right by our communities for today, but to also do what is right for the future. Be courageous. Do the right thing.

David Edwards lives in Lincolnville