The front of the Dumptique

The front of the Dumptique

At last December’s groundbreaking for the library expansion, Selectman Cindy Mitchell said that the library was the heart of West Tisbury. If she’s right, West Tisbury has at least two hearts. The other one is the Dumptique — the recycling shed at the West Tisbury dump.

Oh yeah, I forgot. We’re not supposed to call it a dump anymore. It’s not even a landfill. It’s a transfer station. What the hell, we still go to the dump.

The Dumptique was closed during February, during which time super-volunteer Martina Mastromonaco almost singlehandedly renovated the place, cleaning, painting, reorganizing. You remember February, don’t you? Several snowstorms, lots of sub-freezing days, winds whipping round corners and through walls? The Dumptique is not what you’d call air-tight. It’s air-conditioned in winter, heated in summer — ecologically correct to be sure, but short on creature comforts for the stalwart volunteers.

hoursI missed the grand opening last weekend because I’m training to be a mediator and the training ran 8:30 to 5 both Saturday and Sunday. Tuesday is a dump day in West Tisbury, so yesterday afternoon I went down to drop off some stuff and check out the new look.


The day was dreary but the Dumptique was bright and busy with townsfolk browsing and volunteers sorting incoming donations. The clothing racks would do credit to a department store, and there’s even a well-stocked little library where bibliophiles can hunt for their next book fix.

The little kids department

The little kids department

Shirts, pants, and shorts

Shirts, pants, and shorts

Thinking of hosting a wine & cheese, or a kaffeeklatsch?

Thinking of hosting a wine & cheese, or a kaffeeklatsch?

As a New Englander born and bred, I grew up with recycling, although we didn’t call it that. When you had to spend money, you bought the best you could afford and you used it till it fell apart. If it outlasted its usefulness, you passed it on.

The sorting table, with Martina in front and Pauline (I think) in back

The sorting table, with Martina in front and Pauline (I think) in back

Martha’s Vineyard is New England squared, and when you factor in the high cost of living and the relatively low median income, you see why recycling isn’t just a virtue; it’s a survival skill. Everything at the Dumptique is free for the taking. If you’ve ever done any taking, as most of us have, you don’t think of donating anything you wouldn’t be willing to wear or use. Some donors aren’t so conscientious: they’ll bring in a bag of clothing with the good stuff on top and the junk on the bottom. The volunteers go through it all and reject the unwearables and unusables.

Once in a while a would-be donor objects: How dare you reject this dirty, ripped, and/or broken thing?

Because this is the Dumptique, not the dump: that’s why. In all six island towns, you pay to dispose of your trash but there’s no charge for recyclables. Some people will try to pass the former off as the latter, to save a few bucks.donations

The volunteers volunteer more than their time. Sometimes they take clothes home to wash them. Sometimes paint and other supplies aren’t donated and have to be paid for. So if you’re moved to put a bill or two in the box, they’ll probably be able to make good use of it.

About Susanna J. Sturgis

Susanna edits for a living, writes to survive, and has been preoccupied with electoral politics since 2016. She just started a blog about her vintage T-shirt collection: "The T-Shirt Chronicles." Her other blogs include "From the Seasonally Occupied Territories," about being a year-round resident of Martha's Vineyard, and "Write Through It," about writing, editing, and how to keep going.
This entry was posted in Martha's Vineyard and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Dumptique

  1. Great story, love it. Thank you — really this is a win-win for all. It was sad to read that some people were mad that the vollies get first pick but really we put everything out nice and neat. I have been lucky to get clothes for my granddaughter as we all know how fast they grow but when she outgrows them I wash them and bring them back and hang them up neat and organized. It is sad that some people are mad at that, but I put in my time as do all the vollies. Thank you, Susanna.


  2. Shirley says:

    Wow! Looks like a fancy Thrift Shop!


  3. Sharon Stewart says:

    Every time you mentioned the Dumptique in the past, Susanna, I imagined what it might look like. But nothing like this—this is amazing! I suppose part of its success is due to the fact that people have to go to the dump anyway. I wonder if this could work at our dump (metro population around 1 million). Or maybe, since we have garbage pickup and don’t go to the dump normally, we could run something like this in a more central location. Who built the building? And how long has it been in operation, more or less?

    Sharon of Freecycle Ottawa


    • I’ve got to consult Martina about the history because my memory’s foggy. 15, 20 years? It’s been through several incarnations, some of them rocky. I think the shed was used to store newspapers back when the dump really was a dump and newspapers were about the only thing that got recycled. Plenty of unofficial recycling went on — I had a friend whose builder husband got many of the plumbing fixtures for their new house from the dump: the stuff that rich people throw out is amazing.

      The volunteers are crucial. People will use it as a dumping ground for crap. This also happens at the two down-island thrift shops, each of which is run as a benefit for a different nonprofit. There’s a sign on the front about what the Dumptique won’t accept, mostly stuff that hardly anyone wants, like old computers.

      There’s no trash collection in West Tisbury, so the dump is a community hub, like the post office and the library and the porch at Alley’s General Store.


      • Sharon Stewart says:

        Thanks for all the info! We had a little recycling shed near our cottage, but it was not run by volunteers (or anybody at all), and it didn’t have very much stuff, but my dad enjoyed checking it out from time to time (he was an inveterate garage sale habitué but loved free items even more).


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.