LENNY FEDERICO / RECYCLER & TEACHER / WELLFLEET
Lenny Federico has just returned to Wellfleet to begin his eighth summer on the job at the town’s recycling bins. Here’s Lenny in his own words, recorded last fall. The audio of the interview is posted on the Independent’s website.
Recycling is big here in Wellfleet. A lot of people don’t understand how recycling works. So I feel my job is to show them what we do, and how we do it, and why we do it. I find that if I explain to people, “This is why we don’t want this, or we do want that, they’ll say, ‘Oh, OK!’ ”
Now that I’ve been at the dump for seven summers, I have become an insane recycler myself. I look in the backs of people’s cars. “What are you going to do with that? You don’t want that, do you? Let’s throw that away for you. You don’t need that!” Other people will say, “That’s mine! Don’t worry about it.” They don’t want me to interfere with their lives.
I think more than 50 percent of the people cooperate. Other people are in a hurry. They don’t really care. They just throw it in the machine. They hide things! One guy had a bucket full of what looked like cardboard, and he dumped it in there, and suddenly I heard, THUD! BANG! I looked in. He had thrown rocks into the cardboard container.
People love to go to that swap shop. It’s open three days a week. And whenever it’s open, it’s always busy. It’s like the local watering hole. Do you remember Andy Griffith? They always hung out at the barbershop, Floyd’s, but none of them ever really needed a haircut. They just went there because all their buddies were there, and they could shoot the breeze and have coffee.
The dump is a place like that. People meet there in the morning. One woman suggested just the other day that they have a coffee bar. That’s a nice idea, but I don’t think it’s going to fly!
One time, the friends of the dump that run the swap shop wanted to have a picnic up there. And the town said, “No, you can’t eat at the dump!” Although I eat my lunch at the dump every single day.
One of the best parts of being in Wellfleet is riding my red Vespa to work every morning. I go by the pier. I see the water in the jetty. There’s a few people out running with their dogs. I take my time. I see birds and geese and turtles crossing the road, and snakes and turkeys. It’s fun to see that early in the morning before most of Wellfleet is awake.
I’ve been coming here my entire life. My parents started coming down here when I was a small boy. My father worked as a mailman. Everyone thought we were rich, because we had this house down the Cape. But we weren’t rich at all. We were just very lucky. Back in 1960, it was very cheap. Nobody wanted to come here.
I could not imagine not being able to come to Wellfleet. If I were to move away, I would miss it too much. When I’m not working at the dump, I work with small special needs children, which requires an extraordinary amount of patience. Around February or March, when I’m in school, I start dreaming about Wellfleet and the transfer station and my summer job, and how I can’t wait to come down here and go bike riding and kayaking and working again at the dump.
Listen to Lenny’s audio
Marnie Crawford Samuelson photographs and collaborates on short documentary films and books. She lives in Wellfleet and in Berkeley, Calif.