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After 44 years, Yarmouth Clam Festival goes green

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After 44 years, Yarmouth Clam Festival goes green

YARMOUTH — Instead of creating buckets of thick yellow waste, the vegetable oil used to fry hundreds of clams to a crispy golden brown at this year's Clam Festival will be recycled and converted into an alternative fuel for diesel engines.

This is one of the ways organizers of the 44th annual festival are pursuing an environmentally friendly and green theme. While the festival on July 17-19 will satisfy visitors with all the traditional favorites – fireworks, carnival rides, the parade and music – this year will highlight recycling and waste reduction efforts.

There will be more recycling bins and trash receptacles provided, food vendors will donate their used oil to a South Berwick engineering consulting firm, the town's recycling mascot "Will B. Green" will be more prominent as a reminder throughout the weekend, and food distributor Sysco will provide 100 percent recycled napkins, one-at-a-time napkin dispensers, and fiber trays for the food vendors.

Each year the Chamber of Commerce reports that nearly 100,000 visitors flock to the town for the festival – visitors who purchase food and drinks, and produce a mountain of paper waste.

Patti Bicknell, chairwoman of the Yarmouth Recycling Committee, said it is the committee's goal to reduce the amount of trash as a result of the Clam Festival and to encourage people to reduce, reuse and recycle as much as possible.

"Reducing and reusing are private decisions each person has to make on their own," Bicknell said. "But we can help by providing places for people to recycle, and we can make it easier for them to participate."

While the Chamber of Commerce hires a private hauler to take away the trash so it does not end up at the Yarmouth transfer station, Bicknell said it "is still trash and a lot of it."

To encourage recycling, Bicknell said stickers with mascot Will B. Green, or "Wilby," on all the recycling bins will remind people to throw their trash and recycling in the appropriate bins.

The Yarmouth Lacrosse Boosters will help to make the recycling bins more visible and convenient for people to use by placing them next to trash cans.

Brian Petrovek, president of the boosters, said the group has increased the number of recycling containers by at least a dozen this year, and will place them throughout the festival grounds in the hope that people will think about what they throw away.

"This is a move in the right direction," Petrovek said. "We all need to be more environmentally sensitive."

Kate Huntress, president of the Music Boosters, said they wanted to participate in the recycling effort, too, and were excited to use 100 percent recycled napkins and have access to a silver bullet recycling hopper for large plastic containers. The silver bullet is for the food vendors and is provided by Eric Street, the town public works director.

"This festival is so huge, there is a great potential for negative impact," Huntress said. "We would like to minimize the impact as much as possible."

Huntress said the Music Boosters will also sell fair trade coffee beans this year. Fair trade coffees help guarantee small-production growers receive competitive prices for their products.

Baseball Boosters member Wendy Mahoney said the idea to purchase the 100 percent recyclable napkins was not even a question to her group.

"We decided to do it and didn't even look at the cost," she said. "We definitely wanted to use recycled products."

Lisa Perkins, a festival spokeswoman, said the recycled napkins can be more expensive, but make a difference to the environment.

"The food booths have made their choices," Perkins said. "It can be financially challenging during these times to spend a little bit more, but people believe in this effort and support it."

One of the most environmentally forward efforts will be recycling the discarded vegetable oil used by food vendors. CÉVON Corp., headed by Rich Nowak, will collect and recycle the oil and convert it to a usable fuel.

Nowak said his company name is an acronym for Combining Energy Ventures, energy Opportunities and energy Networks and is pronounced "save-on." He has two vehicles that run on vegetable oil, and has converted between 15 and 20 vehicles from diesel fuel to vegetable oil. He collects the used oil at restaurants from Portsmouth, N.H., to Portland, and does the filtration and conversions.

"This business is rewarding, fun and exciting," he said. "Vegetable oil can be used to produce electricity, fuel and for heating houses."

Nowak said he realized how many summer festivals use oil that can be converted to fuel while at the Fryeburg Fair last year. He said he was too late to collect oil from the Yarmouth Clam Festival last year, but was told by festival coordinator Holly Guy that the timing is right this year. 

"I hope this is the beginning of people becoming more aware of all the possible recycling efforts during the Clam Festival," Bicknell said. "There is a lot we can do."

For a complete Clam Festival schedule, go online to clamfestival.com, or call the Chamber of Commerce at 846-3984.

Amy Anderson can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or aanderson@theforecaster.net