Waste Goes Where

A look at our region’s trash troubles

Recycling rates are up. The amount of trash we're throwing into landfills and burning in incinerators is down. But with all that progress, our region still faces serious challenges when it comes to our trash. In WCAI's newest series, we look at our trash troubles—everything from the rising recycling costs, to our propensity to just dump stuff in the woods, to the fact that we're closely approaching the day when the landfills we already have will be full.

Made possible in part by support from the Circle of Ten—ten local businesses and organizations dedicated to supporting local programming.

By Car, Truck and Boat: Handling an Island's Trash

Dec 9, 2016
Angela Scionti

Don Hatch is a numbers man. He has to know the costs of what it takes to recycle his trash, or else he’s losing money. Because of that, he has to be creative.  

"Two years ago we were receiving $25 a ton for recycling," he said. "This year we are paying $40 a ton. So the recycling market is pretty poor right now. So we are just mixing everything and sending it off to a plant in Woburn."

Phillip Tracey holds up food waste waiting to be mashed and fed into the anaerobic digester at Stop and Shop's Green Energy Faciity in Freetown, MA.
Heather Goldstone / WCAI

Massachusetts officials say we’re on a path to zero waste, and it starts with what’s on your plate. Food waste is the single largest component of our trash and a major source of greenhouse gas emissions. A recently enacted food waste ban is forcing large institutions to find alternatives to throwing away food.

Sean Corcoran

Mashpee Town Manager Rodney Collins stopped his car and looked out the window at a sectional couch.

"A couple weeks ago, this was not here," he said.

Kathryn Eident

Cape Codders have been recycling more paper, metal and plastic than ever before, thanks to programs that make it easier to choose the blue bin over the trash can. But, with higher recycling rates come hidden costs that can flow back to residents in the form of increased fees or taxes.

Elsa Partan

For people in three towns on Cape Cod, taking out the trash means bringing it to the curb. For the rest, it means bringing it a transfer station. 

Courtesy Phil Goddard

Most of Cape Cod’s municipal solid waste goes to landfills now. The rest is burned at Covanta SEMASS in Rochester, Massachusetts. That begs a question.

Which is better for the environment, burning trash, or burying it?


WCAI is launching a news series exploring where our trash goes, and where it probably shouldn’t. We call it “Waste Goes Where? A Look at our Region’s Trash Troubles.” On The Point, Mindy Todd gets a preview of the series, talking with three of the reporters who have been working on the project: Heather Goldstone, Katherine Eident, and Elsa Partan.