David Lynam: Dewey’s One-Man Beach Recycling Team



During the summer, David Lynam, just one man, is responsible for emptying 125 trash cans on the beach in Dewey. For more than 25 years, well before he was required to do so, he started recycling and continues to do so without ever having received any grant money.

This is a business and he runs a tight ship. The more he can recycle, the less trash he will have to pay to have removed from his dumpster.

As part of the concession agreement he has with the town for chair and umbrella rentals, Lynam agrees to empty the beach trash bins.

Forcing him to handle the town’s beach trash while running the beach rentals has him trying to constantly improve how he handles the waste. “I am in the position where I have to be smart,” he states.

He admits he makes a few dollars from the aluminum, not much. And he dumps plastic, glass and whatever other recyclables he can in the 8-yard recycling dumpster the town rents.

It is in his best interest to recycle as much as possible, because ultimately he pays to dispose of the remaining trash which he stores in a dumpster. He pulls that dumpster along the beach on a trailer behind his truck four days a week to empty the trash containers.

He says more than half of the beach trash is recyclable. By far, the largest volume is consumed by plastic bottles.

Lynam takes pride with his efficiency and strategy. He typically deploys a set of five cans on either side of each of the town’s street ends. Unlike Rehoboth, where cans are randomly distributed along the beach, Lynam targets these street ends where pedestrian traffic is the heaviest.

That is where he has the cans symmetrically lined in sets of five and they follow the same pattern at each street end. While busier locations have two sets, some may only have one. In the center is a can for aluminum, on either side of that is a pair of cans for plastic bottles, and on each end goes cans for trash. This, he says, encourages people to become more conscientious in deciding where to deposit their waste. People seem more inclined to recycle if the trash and recycle bins are in close proximity, he points out.

He also analyzes people’s recycling behavior. Typically he leaves a layer of plastic bottles or aluminum cans in the respective barrel; never will he leave it empty. This provides a good visual cue to people who deposit trash without reading the label on the barrel, and makes them feel they are contaminating the barrel if they deposit the wrong item.

Lynam is known for his efforts in “smartening up the cans” (as he calls it). He frequently is seen wearing long rubber gloves to pick through the trash and further remove items that do not belong in the barrel.

Lynam invites officials from Rehoboth to spend the morning with him on the beach in Dewey. He has ideas to help. “If I did Rehoboth I would use three steel cans for the recycling and two plastic cans on the ends for trash. I’d use bags for the recycle and connect the two plastic ones to the metal ones so they don’t blow down when empty,” he states.

He says Rehoboth typically places individual cans along the dunes, even in areas which have little pedestrian traffic. Rehoboth does not recycle beach trash other than broken chairs and umbrellas which are collected by the trash wagon. The city uses plastic bags and lots of them in all cans.

Rehoboth’s beach trash is sealed in plastic bags and taken to the landfill. Dewey does not use plastic bags. They might be necessary to handle Rehoboth’s higher volume, but Rehoboth could still use them in a plan to separate trash from recyclables, he points out.

Lynam notes that Rehoboth had a grant for a beach recycling program. That grant purchased recycling bins, tipping dumpsters and an accompanying trailer. The program lasted about a year. The recycling cans were randomly distributed along the beach, often without any nearby cans for trash. The program failed.

The trailer was re-purposed by the maintenance shop and the trash cans eventually had the recycling logos removed or obscured and were turned into regular trash cans, many of which remain in service today.

Lynam says he never received any grant money for his efforts.

Another big difference is that Rehoboth has public works staff. Dewey has no public works, just the one town maintenance man who sometimes has an assistant.


How the beaches handle beach trash:

Ocean City

On the beach the town has more than 800 55 gallon plastic barrels, says Hal Adkins, public works director. These cans do not have bags in them. Ocean City uses two Broyhill Load and Pack trucks that drive along the beach at night and using a claw-arm reach out, lift and dump the barrels.

Empty barrels are placed back on the sand but at slightly a different spot, in case there is any spillage or excess trash. Later in the night a fleet of beach tractors with sifting machines clean the entire beach and pick up any spillage from the barrels. They do this every day from Memorial Day through Labor Day.

All of Ocean City’s municipal solid waste — commercial and residential — is taken to the transfer station on 65th Street. There, Covanta hauls the material to either the company’s Fairfax County or Chester, Pennsylvania incinerator facilities where it is used in the generation of electricity. According to the city’s website, metals remaining from the incineration process are recycled.


Bethany Beach

Brett J. Warner, public works director, says the town has 53 trash cans on the beach which are supplemented with 19 95-gallon recycling carts. Trash is bagged and removed using a small truck or UTV-type vehicle.


Dewey Beach

David Lynam has 125 barrels typically placed at street ends with separate containers for trash, aluminum and plastic. No plastic bags are used. During the season trash is collected four days a week and recycling is collected every day.


Rehoboth Beach

Rehoboth Beach currently has 133 trash cans distributed along the beach; all waste is bagged and hauled to the landfill. No attempt is made at recycling. Public works crews pull and tie full or partially full plastic bags throughout the day. The bags are typically collected by the trash wagon the following morning. The crew on the trash wagon does attempt to recycle chairs and umbrellas.

Some photos courtesy Tony Johnson Crivella, and William & Greg Seaby