Inside the eco-friendly cleanup after Burlington’s firework celebration

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BURLINGTON, Vt. – Burlington’s July 3 fireworks show brought thousands of people to the waterfront, but when everyone left, one company’s work was just beginning.

Thousands of people mean hundreds of pounds of trash, and in a lot of cases, most of that waste ends up in a landfill. Marina McCoy and her team at Waste Free Earth aim to change that, and on Sunday, their work was cut out for them.

“We have three dumpsters, one for compost, one for recycling, and one for landfill,” McCoy said. “We have three teams sorting through everything.”

Marina McCoy is the company’s founder and CEO, and it’s the second time they’ve cleaned up Burlington’s fireworks show.

“Usually, there’s so much contamination in the recycling and composting at events, and that’s why a lot of it gets rejected,” McCoy said. “Digging and sorting through all this waste has actually helped them make better consumer choices, because now they know what they’re buying isn’t actually recyclable or compostable.”

The average American produces four and a half pounds of waste per day, and McCoy said even some items that are marked as recyclable aren’t necessarily so.

Waste Free Earth also had an education booth set up at Saturday’s fireworks, which helped spread the word on sustainability.

“We have contests that kids really love,” McCoy said. “It’s really just an area where people can come, not feel judged where they’re at in their sustainability journey and just have a lot of fun.”

By Sunday afternoon, most of the trash had been sorted. McCoy estimated it was about 10 cubic yards of waste.

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