Volunteers Answer the Earth Day Call to Clean Up Roadsides

Eco Challenge calls for less plastic

By Ty Morris

The Andover Community Hub, the Andover Conservation Commission, and Ty Morris Real Estate would like to thank everyone who participated in this year’s Earth Day Eco Challenge and Roadside Cleanup by grabbing a blue bag and cleaning up the trash found along our town’s roads after the snow banks melted away. We know that more than 100 bags were used in this effort, which represents a major commitment of time and energy on the part of lots of Andover residents. Thank you to all!

This year there was an additional focus on individuals making an Eco Commitment to use less plastic. We partnered with Andover’s Crow Tree Farm to show us how easy, fun, and earth-friendly using less plastics can be. A big thank-you goes to Malora Moore and Joe Rice for their generous contributions!  You would be amazed at how versatile bar soaps can be as well as how much plastic you can save by switching!

There was also a drawing this year for the Grand Prize of an original painting of the Cilleyville Covered Bridge by Springfield artist Chelsea Eason, and the entry fee for the drawing was to make a personal Eco Commitment to reduce, reuse, or recycle in one’s own life.  The winner was Kathleen Kennedy of East Andover!  Along with the grand prize, participants were welcome to take seedlings and a goody bag which included goat’s milk and blueberry seed soap and homemade lip balm from Crow Tree Farm.  

Missed out but want to get more involved? Contact the Andover Community Hub at TheAndoverHub@nullgmail.com to be kept posted on upcoming events as well as to let The Hub know what kinds of activities you’d like to see happening in town.

And, for some personal thoughts from Ty Morris on cleaning up our world, please consider the following the next time you buy a bottle of … anything:

When you justify throwing your plastic bottle away, whether it’s from water or a squirt top shampoo, do you ever consider the ramifications this action has on our planet? Ok, so you decide to recycle it, great!  Have you considered where your recycled material goes?

I recently toured the storage sheds behind multiple town transfer stations. To my surprise, there were floor to ceiling piles of baled recycled plastics, sorted and ready to go … to where? 

In previous years, our recycled material was shipped to China to be turned back into goods. America has done a fantastic job to enable recycling, but the increase in recycled material is actually straining the market because buyers like China are no longer interested in buying our recyclables. Incredibly, towns around the country are admitting that the bales of recycled paper, cardboard, and plastics are either being sent to landfills or to incinerator plants. The Atlantic even cited Franklin in 2019, saying “the city government didn’t want to ask them (Franklin residents) to pay more to recycle, so all those carefully sorted bottles and cans are being burned” (The Atlantic, “Is this the end of recycling?”, Alana Semuels, March, 2019). 

Currently, Andover’s Transfer Station does not offer a plastic recycling program.   All waste goes into the trash hopper and is sent to either a landfill or incinerator, although they were able to sell their previous build-up of plastic bales responsibly. 

FYI: When burned, plastic releases toxic gases like dioxins, furans, mercury, and polychlorinated biphenyls (better known as BCPs) into the atmosphere. Even more concerning, when buried, plastics never fully biodegrade. They just break apart into smaller and smaller bits of plastic, finding its way into our food and water sources.

Surely, we can arrive at a responsible conclusion after reading this, but what is the solution? I talk a lot about real estate, and lately supply and demand has been the focus. When things are out of balance, market prices get wacky. 

In the market of recyclable products and material, we are using and (properly) disposing of an incredible amount of material (supply). There are a lot of companies around the world that turn these materials into usable products such as bags, shoes, and paper goods, but as a society (demand), we are not buying enough. 

Just like the housing market, with its low supply and an astronomical demand, it’s causing prices to skyrocket and home buyers to panic. Likewise, we have created a supply level of plastic and paper waste that our demand doesn’t begin to cover.

So, the solution is easy: don’t just recycle your plastic bottles, buy fewer plastic bottles. Remember, there are 3 R’s (reduce, reuse, recycle): recycling is the last resort. 

Furthermore, buy products that use recycled material. Help the supply and demand of the recyclable market balance out. The more recycled products we buy, and the less we dispose of, the less expensive the market will become, making it easier for towns to properly recycle our waste and the sticker prices of recycled products such as recycled paper goods will go down.

Making this change can be easy. Sure, you will actively begin using your reusable water bottle more and reduce your usage by starting to buy concentrated juice instead of the handle jug. These minor adjustments will change the world!  

What can you commit to, though?  My wife and I made a small life change earlier this year: we committed to using only bar soaps. Bar soaps are not just for showering – you can use bar soap for handwashing, dishwashing, cleaning, and they even make bar-soap shampoo.  

Furthermore, we love buying our bar soaps from local farms like Crow Tree Farm here in Andover. Not only is it great for the environment, it’s fun, 100% sustainable, and supports a local business.