In Westfield: Building community with recyclable materials

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Collin Mahoney of Butterworks Farm brings a truckload like this each week to the Westfield Recycling Center.  Photos by David Dudley
Collin Mahoney of Butterworks Farm brings a truckload like this each week to the Westfield Recycling Center. Photos by David Dudley

copyright the Chronicle December 23, 2014

by David Dudley

WESTFIELD — There’s a place in Westfield where people gather every Saturday morning to see friends and family. It’s not a sporting event, or a church, or a bar that opens early. It’s a recycling center, and many of the citizens of Westfield and neighboring towns have been making this trip for seven years now. For the town of Westfield, recycling is a community affair.

Yves Daigle established the Westfield Recycling Center in 2007, and it has been growing ever since.

“The state mandated that all towns had to open up a recycling center for people who wanted to recycle,” Mr. Daigle said, as he greeted his Saturday recyclers. “We started with just a trailer. We were lucky to get nine or ten people in those days. Now we get about 100 people every Saturday.”

The recycling center — which is open from 9 a.m. to noon each Saturday — is now housed in the Westfield Town Garage. A good thing, too, because the operation generates a good deal of traffic.

Kitty and Spud Edwards have been recycling there since 2007. They pulled up to the recycling center, as they do most Saturdays, with a truckload of recyclables.   Though Ms. Edwards has been recycling for some time, her husband still needs a nudge.

“I’d rather throw it all in the dump, but she won’t let me,” Mr. Edwards said, nodding towards his wife.

Ms. Edwards smiled, then handed her husband a 90-gallon garbage barrel full of bottles.

“I’ve got to remind him every once in a while about the benefits of recycling,” Ms. Edwards said.

At 91, Esmond Willis of Westfield is living proof that it's never too late to learn to recycle.
At 91, Esmond Willis of Westfield is living proof that it’s never too late to learn to recycle.

Though many of the benefits are well known — among them, conserving natural resources, preventing pollution, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and conserving landfill space — it’s sometimes difficult to picture the positive impact recycling has on individuals, communities, and the earth.

A visit to the Westfield Recycling Center will clear that up.

Mr. Daigle likes to draw attention to the amount of money people can save by recycling some of their garbage.

“Before we started recycling, we used to pay $29 a month,” he said, talking about his own household bill. “Now we pay $5 a month for rubbish removal.”

Recycling is free for residents of Westfield, as well as residents of surrounding towns, including Troy, North Troy, Jay, and Lowell.

Esmond Willis of Westfield said that, before the Westfield Recycling Center was opened, she did not recycle. But, since 2007, she has made the trip every Saturday.

Collin Mahoney of Butterworks Farm brings a heaping truckload of recyclables each Saturday. Among the waste he unloads each week are discarded plastic wrappings from haylage.

“Those things were a major problem,” Mr. Mahoney said. “They’re hard to dispose of. If you leave them sitting on the farm, the wind will kick up and blow them all over the place, down the road, onto other farms. We’re really happy that we can bring them here.”

For every recyclable material, there is a receptacle.   There are bins for cans, cardboard and newspaper; plastic bags, boxes and televisions; computers, books and glass bottles.

Mr. Daigle is quick to point out how much waste is being diverted from the dump, and returned to use. Coventry is the only landfill in Vermont, and it’s filling up fast.

“What will we do when we can’t put anything else in that landfill?” Mr. Daigle wondered. “Act 250 permits are hard to come by, and you can’t open up a landfill without one. So we’ve got to try and conserve landfill space.”

And, in contrast to the dump in Coventry, where one would do well to drop off the rubbish and move along in a timely manner, the crowd at the Westfield Recycling Center is friendly and welcoming.

Visitors are often greeted with inquiries about friends and family.

Westfield Selectman Yves Daigle established the Westfield Recycling Center seven years ago.  “When we first started, we'd be lucky to get ten people in a day,” Mr. Daigle said. “Now we average about a hundred.”   Photos by David Dudley
Westfield Selectman Yves Daigle established the Westfield Recycling Center seven years ago. “When we first started, we’d be lucky to get ten people in a day,” Mr. Daigle said. “Now we average about a hundred.” Photos by David Dudley

Mr. Daigle smiled as he welcomed one friend, who had brought a vacuum cleaner to be recycled. He introduced his friend to others as the center’s janitor. Everybody got a kick out of that, including the man dropping off the vacuum.

The men discussed sports, while the women talked about loved ones. And, for those who have had family members fall ill, there is a great deal of moral support to be found.

If the virtues of recycling weren’t already self-evident, Mr. Daigle makes it his mission to show appreciation for those who participate.

To celebrate the community’s involvement, he threw a party on Westfield’s common on December 10. There was a bonfire, doughnuts, coffee, cocoa, cider, and Santa Claus. Two women led the party goers in song.

“I started throwing this party about four years ago,” Mr. Daigle said. “I wanted to show my appreciation to the people who recycle. It’s a good time for all. But I wasn’t so sure anybody would show up, this year.”

Although the weather was, indeed, nasty, about 50 people attended the event.

contact David Dudley at [email protected]

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