As a part of my internship at Clean Ocean Access, I have helped out at a couple of community events as a “Green Team” member to help people sort their waste. On May 21st, I worked at a waste station at the Newport Oyster & Chowder Festival in Bowen’s Wharf.
This festival in particular was important for COA to be at because over ten thousand people attend it annually and around fifteen thousand oysters are shucked; a recipe for a lot of food waste.
At the waste stations, there was a recycling bin, landfill bin, compost bin, and a special bin for the oyster shells to be placed in. The oyster bins were to be collected and brought to the Nature Conservancy. From there, they let them curate in the Great Swamp, a wildlife management area in Rhode Island, for six months and then brought back to oyster farms to reuse.
From the start, the event was packed. People were flooding in and out of the wharf buying food and drinks from vendors. It was hot, loud, and people just wanted to quickly get out of the area once they were done eating.
People would quickly walk to the waste station I was at and dump everything into one bin before I could even explain to them what to do. Oftentimes, people did not even think I was there to help and they just thought I was a random girl standing next to the trash with gloves on, picking plastic bottles out of the compost bin.
So, I began to take more charge in front of the waste station, stopping people in their tracks before they could even think about throwing their waste in a bin.
This was a little more difficult than composting at my school, as we only composted food waste. Here, there were many different things that could go into the compost like cardboard and compostable cups. So, I had to be very specific when I helped people sort their waste. Instead of one quick dump that would only take 5 seconds, it often took people up to 45 seconds to thoroughly dispose of everything properly.
Some people were aggravated, and composting was the last thing they wanted to do. But others thought it was a great idea and thanked me for being there. Still, the waste was properly sorted and that is all that mattered.
When my shift was over, I walked out of Bowen’s Wharf and saw endless bins packed full of oyster shells. It was crazy to think that all of these would have been brought to the landfill if we did not help people sort out their waste. It was really cool to help out at this festival and sort waste on a bigger scale compared to my high school.
Posted By Maggie Lauder
Posted Aug 2nd, 2023