By Seth Daniel
Though the folks at Casella Waste spent decades in Charlestown on the industrial side of Rutherford Avenue, they are now the first to admit they didn’t often step foot into the Town – and it’s something they said they now fully regret.
Since striking out with the community last fall and earlier this year in proposing a trash transfer facility at their recycling plant in the industrial park, Casella folks have quietly been working to rebuild their image and become more involved in the Town. And they said they’re not just doing it in order to get something they want; they said they realized last fall that they needed to work more with the community.
“We’ve been here since 1990 and I’ve been here since 1980,” said Bob Cappadona of Casella’s Charlestown facility. “I’m from Massachusetts, but we are a Vermont company. We are one of the top five recycling facilities in the entire U.S. We process 200,000 tons per year. This is a very big facility. We’ve always taken the opportunity to have good relationships at City Hall and doing our jobs well and wanting to be good neighbors. Unfortunately, we respectfully missed the boat with our local Charlestown community relations. When’s a better time than now to change that? It’s 18 years later, and that’s a long time, but there’s no time like now to do things differently. We always try to do the right thing. I spent a lot of time at City Hall, but not in the local community. We realized we need to change that.”
Casella approached the community last fall before Christmas with a proposal to retrofit part of their large recycling facility into a trash transfer station. The move was at first receiving modest support from some parts of the community, but that soon changed when more than 100 people came out to oppose the idea at a later community meeting. One major thing that came out of that meeting, especially from elected officials like Councilor Sal LaMattina, was that Casella had done very little to support the Town despite all the years it had been here.
Casella officials said they took a hard look at that and agreed.
Since that time, they have gotten involved with the Board of the Boys & Girls Club – helping to pick the Youth of the Year this spring. They also have designs on helping with Little League and Youth Hockey too.
Last month, they hosted the Green Team from the Harvard Kent Elementary School, a group of third graders that are learning about recycling and other reuse efforts.
Cappadona said it was a very easy connection to make in the community, and Principal Jason Gallagher was fully supportive of the idea.
“It was a good connection for us because the kids were doing a unit in science class on environmental science,” Cappadona said. “It was a good chance for them to see one of the biggest recycling plants in the country and understand how it works.”
Students learned that the recycling at Casella, which the company purchased in 1998 from KTI Recycling, comes from Charlestown, Boston, Cambridge and Somerville. The items are sifted through a conveyer belt where workers eliminate unwanted items. Then, it bailed into cubes. Cappadona said they can produce 1,500 bails at 2,000 pounds per bail.
Students also learned that one of the main barriers to recycling is education, as many people are confused about what can and cannot be recycled.
The trip also included a front-row tour of the facility and a pizza party afterward.
Cappadona said he hopes that the relationship with the Harvard Kent can continue, and will be one of several partnerships with the Town in the coming years.
“We just want to reach out right now wherever we can,” he concluded.