Refuse to Use Single-Use Plastics On Nantucket
Rising sea waters, massive storm surges, and plastics bobbing in the middle of the oceans have left the residents of Nantucket feeling like they are on the front-lines of looming global challenges. In 2020, the Nantucket community is taking a stand, and turning toward solutions while offering ways for residents and visitors to proactively protect our beautiful Island.
Behind Nantucket’s bucolic setting, the community is wrestling with a handful of significant environmental issues. One is our limited landfill. Current estimates project that we have less than ten years before our newest landfill cell reaches its capacity. With only one more landfill cell to possibly be approved by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, it is clear that land and time is limited. Alternative approaches to recycling and waste management must be a priority.
Nantucket’s Public Works team has restructured the way residents collect trash. Strikingly named the Waste Stream, the goal is to sort out the good trash from the bad. By having the community separate non-recyclable/non-compostable (NRNC) from organic waste it allows the purest of compostable materials to be fed into the composter and turned into rich compost. Currently, any contaminants that land in the compostable waste stream must be screened out of the composter, baled, and deposited into our burdened landfill. By managing trash more effectively, we can extend the life of our landfill.
On Nantucket, we are focused on making clean reusable compost—that’s free to the public—while non-recyclable plastics, bulky waste, and other NRNC are shipped off to a bigger landfill on the mainland. More support is needed by the community to commit to separating its trash, so fewer contaminants are kept on-island and in our reusable soil. Ideally, the best option overall is to lessen the plastics in our waste stream.
In the spring of 2018, a small but mighty plastics awareness campaign called Stop the Straw was launched by the Town of Nantucket’s ACKLocal program, in collaboration with Maria Mitchell Association and ReMain Nantucket. While its purpose was to voluntarily encourage businesses and consumers to eliminate single-serve plastic straws and stirrers by opting for sustainable alternatives, its influence rippled swiftly across the island. The campaign generated so much buzz, that Nantucketers started to believe that we could do more than just eliminate one single-use plastic item. We could do better.
A citizen’s petition was filed by Nantucket resident Bruce Mandel at a special town meeting in October 2018. Mandel argued that we needed to ban the distribution, sale, and commercial use of a number of single-use plastics on island. Voters approved his proposal, which was later written into a by-law banning plastic water bottles, six-pack yokes, coffee pods, non-compostable plates and utensils, drinking cups and lids and, yes, those darn straws and drink stirrers. The ban goes into effect on June 1, 2020.
In preparation, the Town of Nantucket established a Plastics Ban Committee to structure the rollout. The committee reached out to wholesalers and retailers about the shift away from single-use plastics, offered alternative purchasing solutions, and created a public awareness campaign around the island’s efforts to tackle a serious plastics problem.
The committee also recognized a need for more water refill stations. Starting this summer, visitors and residents will find more refill locations around the island. In addition, free water bottles are being given out by Visitor Services through their BYOWB (Bring Your Own Water Bottle) program. Water station locations are available at www.nantucket-ma.gov/waterstations.
To bring a broader focus to issues of environmental sustainability within our community, ReMain Nantucket has developed NantucketFootprints.net. Based on advancing the long-term sustainable care of Nantucket, the website provides curated local and global news articles, information about talks and events, island resources, and tips. Topics include the reduction of plastics, efforts to tackle coastal resilience, protection of our food systems, and information about local wildlife and our fragile ecosystems. It also provides a platform for Nantucket non-profits to contribute in a collaborative way and share their efforts in a collective voice. Please explore Nantucket Footprints to learn what you can do to keep this beautiful island healthy for future generations. Every choice we make has an impact. Enjoy the island!
Virna Gonzalez is the Program and Marketing Manager for ReMain Nantucket. For the past eleven years, her work at ReMain has focused on developing awareness campaigns on topics including sustainability, culture, and transportation.