WCAI Series Reporting

WCAI brings you original in-depth reporting on issues facing the Cape, Islands, and South Coast: Wind Turbines, Education, Water Quality, Alzheimer's, and more.

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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?

At Jenni Bick Bookbinding in Vineyard Haven, Juliette Bittner and Lauren Clark are sewing books together, punching holes through the leather covers and sticking pages in. The papers are all different colors and textures. Some are lined, others are printed.

"They have a variance of pages that you can write on and draw on and glue things into," said Bittner, who has worked here since she moved to the island five years ago.

Brian Morris

At Mass Automation in Bourne, a team of eight or so engineers and skilled workers custom-build machines that have never been made before. It's a business built on innovation.

"We design and build custom equipment," said company president John Fraser. "A lot of it for medical and pharmaceutical type applications. Johnson and Johnson might come to us with a new surgical sponge that they've designed, and we'll design a machine to automate making that sponge."

Brian Morris/WCAI

The South Coast has a much longer and more robust history of making products than Cape Cod or the Islands. Two South Coast manufacturers in particular make very different types of products, but both employ specially-trained local talent to produce them.   

Davico Manufacturing in New Bedford has spent 28 years making just one thing - replacement catalytic converters. But within that one product category, there’s a huge amount of variety: 1,700 different sku’s, or part numbers, according to Davico Business Development Manager Glen Hamblet,

Sean Corcoran / WCAI

Lined up on the manufacturing floor of the Bourne-based company, Hydroid, the underwater robots look like torpedoes, with tail fins and rear propellers. They're different sizes, some six feet long, others more than double that length. The biggest one is painted a bright yellow submarine color, while the smaller ones are dark gray with black, so they're less easy to see when underwater.

"Two-thirds of our business is with the US Navy," said Hydroid president Duane Fotheringham. "We're also in 17 navies around the world. "

Daniel X. O'Neil / flickr

New England’s energy system is at a crossroads. Economics and climate concerns are driving a shift away from coal and oil, but experts remain divided on where to go from here.

If you want to get a sense of New England’s energy systems – past, present, and future – Sandwich is a good place to go. It’s the oldest town on Cape Cod, founded in 1639.

“It’s very nice, and I think it’s very historical,” says Takayuki Terai, a visitor from Japan. “I like this kind of New England atmosphere very much.”