Southampton issues textile challenge in bid to limit waste

  • Steve Dudek, an attendant at the Southampton Transfer Station, points to the clothing bins that sit near the entrance of the transfer station on Moose Brook Road. STAFF PHOTO/EMILY THURLOW

  • Kevin Slattery, an attendant at the Southampton Transfer Station, stands beside the station’s massive compost pile. STAFF PHOTO/EMILY THURLOW

  • The Southampton Transfer Station accepts organic yard waste such as leaves, twigs, grass, clippings and coffee grounds. STAFF PHOTO/EMILY THURLOW

  • TOWN OF SOUTHAMPTON TOWN OF SOUTHAMPTON

Staff Writer
Published: 2/20/2022 8:18:54 PM
Modified: 2/20/2022 8:18:34 PM

SOUTHAMPTON — Randall Kemp has been talking trash on Facebook for years and it would seem that some people are paying attention.

The Southampton highway superintendent and transfer station manager has been challenging townspeople on social media to divert clothing and fabrics from the waste stream and landfills, and instead choose to reuse/recycle items through donations to the D.A.R.E. bins at the town’s transfer station. In his posts, he provides updates as to how many pounds have been donated and encourages residents to “beat their best year” of donations and top 11,000 pounds of textiles in a single year.

“I have been posting periodic educational posts of this nature on our official town Facebook page and have been posting specifically about textiles all the way back to June of 2016. I think it’s a good way to motivate people,” he said. “We have been doing a great job here in Southampton as we have not had to raise user fees in the past three years. I urge residents to ask questions and do everything they can to minimize waste and we will continue to expand our operations where we are able to assist in this endeavor.”

Although the town’s vendor was not accepting textiles through much of the pandemic — which accounts for the sharp decline in 2020 — from 2019 to 2021, residents donated 21,975 pounds of textiles. Despite that, 2021 proved to be the third-highest amount of textiles diverted from the waste stream with 10,550 pounds.

From 2016 to 2021, the community has kept nearly 50,000 pounds of textiles out of the waste stream, according to Kemp. Though he has no data to back up his efforts, he said he’d like to attribute some of the success of the program to his social media presence.

The U.S. recycling industry recycles approximately 8 pounds of textiles per person each year, according to the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries Inc. in Washington.

Residents and businesses in Massachusetts dispose of approximately 230,000 tons of usable clothing, footwear, linens and other textile products annually, according to the state Department of Environmental Protection. By DEP’s estimate, about 95% of this material could be reused or recycled rather than being thrown away.

“Landfills are filling up fast and materials that can be reused, recycled or composted shouldn’t be taking up limited space within them,” Kemp said.

MassDEP has new regulations that will be coming down the pipeline on Nov. 1.

As part of the state agency’s final 2030 Solid Waste Master Plan, the DEP has established new goals to reduce disposal throughout the state by 30% over the next decade — from 5.7 million tons in 2018 to 4 million tons by 2030. The long-term goal of the plan is to achieve a 90% reduction in disposal to 570,000 tons by 2050.

To hit these marks, DEP will be adding textiles and mattresses to the list of materials that are banned from disposal or transport for disposal in the state.

As a condition of Southampton’s authorization to operate, which is issued by DEP, the town must abide by the state’s waste ban plan.

“… Not only is it advantageous for Southampton to be early adopters of the expanded waste bans that will come into effect Nov. 1 of this year, but presumably it will be cheaper in the long run as existing landfill space dwindles,” Kemp said.

As part of the state’s waste ban plan, DEP will also lower the threshold on commercial organic/food waste to facilities from one ton to a half-ton per week.

While the town does not accept commercial food waste at the transfer station, residential permit holders can utilize the station’s compost pile to drop off organic yard waste, such as leaves, twigs, weeds, grass clippings and coffee grounds.

In the past, Kemp has initiated a subsidized backyard household food waste composter program. Within four days of offering these composters, he sold out. He hopes to be able to offer more composters to residents in the spring.

Kemp also has aims to find a way to fund a purchase of a soil screener, so that the transfer station can offer finished compost produced to residents for their lawns and flowerbeds from the organics they drop off.

In the meantime, he’s challenging residents to make 2022 their best year yet.

“Clean out those closets and let’s see if we can have our biggest year yet for pounds of clothing and textiles kept out of landfills!” he said.

Emily Thurlow can be reached at ethurlow@gazettenet.com.

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