Solid Waste

Energy and Solid Waste - Solid WasteThe volume of waste the Vineyard disposes of is an energy-intensive and, thus, costly operation. Currently we ship 33,500 tons of trash off-Island each year, accounting for 15% of the Steamship Authority’s freight traffic, or one in seven freight trips. Our generation of waste is growing much faster than our year-round population.

Four of the Island’s six towns – Aquinnah, Chilmark, Edgartown and West Tisbury – are members of the Martha’s Vineyard Regional Refuse Disposal and Resource Recovery District, jointly handling their waste management. Oak Bluffs and Tisbury manage their wastes together; these two towns are the most densely populated and are the only towns that provide curbside collection. In addition, several private companies are involved in collection, consolidation, and off-Island shipment of waste, independent of any governmental functions. Each town has its own waste transfer station, often at former landfill sites, all of which incorporate deposit of materials for recycling.


The Vineyard faces several challenges with respect to managing solid waste.
  • The division of the volume of waste among more than one entity may reduce ability to garner bulk-based fees.
  • The consolidation of all the Island waste operations may put them into higher classification for compliance/standards.
  • Trucks return to the Island empty, which adds to the cost of waste hauling.
  • The Island’s waste districts are under a deadline to sign new long-term tipping contracts for mainland solid waste disposal.
  • Martha's Vineyard has no community composting and recycling programs are limited compared to some other locations.


The Island Plan proposed that the Island aim to transform a maximum amount of our waste into useful resources. It proposed that we convert most of our waste into useful resources with an integrated, Island-wide program of waste management. The emphasis needs to be both on controlling and influencing what we generate as waste and on how we are maximizing potentials for reuse.

If we look instead at waste as a resource, we might address multiple issues. We import compost at great expense, while shipping off sewage sludge and organic materials we could use to make our own fertilizer and compost. Wiser use of what we now discard as waste could reclaim useable resources, reduce waste transportation costs, and create new economic opportunities.

Nantucket has an integrated solid waste disposal system, encompassing landfill cleanup, recycling, and a centralized composting facility, has reduced waste by 86% and is the top recycling community in the country, with only 8% of waste ending up in a landfill. Nantucket mines their old landfills for materials that can be recycled or converted to energy, thereby removing potential groundwater contaminants and restoring valuable real estate for new uses.

The addition of three components to our current waste system – a large-scale composting facility, a used building materials exchange, and a comprehensive recycling facility – may allow us to create both jobs and products (compost, mulch, biomass for heating, building materials, etc.) while reducing energy consumption and costs. A thorough feasibility study looking at site considerations, material sources, collection methods, use options, and product resale is needed to develop an appropriate comprehensive approach for the Vineyard. The first objective focuses on managing waste after it enters the waste stream while the second deals mainly with ways to reduce, reuse, and recycle so materials don’t have to be treated or disposed of in the first place.


Office location:

Office location:

The Stone Building
33 New York Avenue
Oak Bluffs, MA 02557

Telephone: 508-693-3453
Fax: 508-693-7894

Mailing Address

Mailing address:

Martha's Vineyard Commission
P.O. Box 1447
Oak Bluffs, MA 02557

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