Belfast is continuing to expand the capabilities of its transfer station, as the newest addition to the facility requires residents do far less sorting of their plastics.

With the addition of a new baler, the transfer station can now accept number one plastics and also numbers three through seven without sorting. Number two plastics, which include heavier plastic containers, such as laundry detergent bottles and motor oil containers, are still required to be sorted separately.

Administrative Assistant Jennika Lundy noted the new baler can even accept rigid plastics, such as lawn furniture and children’s toys.

Funding to purchase the new baler, as well as improving the glass recycling process and accepting asphalt shingles was approved by the City Council in May 2012.

During that meeting, councilors approved expending $19,000 from the transfer station capital project account and an additional $12,000 from the transfer station reserve to cover the cost of the projects.

The improvements are part of a report submitted by a recycling advisory committee that explored different options for improving the transfer station. The report, which was presented to the council in 2010, noted several suggestions that would improve efficiencies and increase recycling opportunities.

In the 34-page report, committee members suggested the purchase of a new plastic baler would improve recycling rates within the city by as much as 2.75 percent.

The committee members also noted in the report that “food grade” plastics represent a significant portion, 41 percent, of all the plastic waste received at the transfer station.

Sandy Carey, the new transfer station manager, said many people were excited to see the new recycling opportunities. She recalled how one woman brought tubs filled with plastic yogurt containers that she was saving until they could be recycled.

While she hopes the increased ease of recycling plastic continues to gain momentum within the city, she said cardboard continues to comprise the bulk of the material received, followed by newspaper.

The city receives cardboard from Searsport and Swanville, which contributes to the high volume received, but she also hopes in the future to receive number two plastics from Swanville. The number two plastics are valuable, Carey said, because of the how they can be recycled.

“It all depends on what can be done with the material,” she said.

Because number two plastics are sturdier, they can be recycled into toys and other products, Carey said. That allows them to be used in more products and drives up its value.

Mayor Walter Ash Jr. said the transfer station was created by the city after the state began a push to shut down dump sites. Ash said the station was created with a low budget and since then, it has continued to improve.

"It's been a real gem to the community," Ash said. "It worked out great."

The gradual improvements that have been made over the years at the transfer station are a source of pride for Councilor Mike Hurley who said he fought to see improvements made. Looking ahead, he said he would like to see a swap shop come to fruition, but acknowledged such a facility would need to be staffed by volunteers or by someone who receives a small stipend.

He also noted that the employees of the transfer station have some of the most face-to-face interactions with residents in the city and he was all praise for how they conduct themselves.

“The people up there are just really remarkable,” Hurley said.

Like Hurley, Carey said the addition of a swap shop is something she is seriously considering and hoping to be able to implement in the near future. She said a group of volunteers have inquired about the status of the shop, and she said she feels it would be a “good winter project” to work on.

She said she supports the swap shop because she notices there are a number of items that are still functional that get thrown away. Along those same lines, Carey said she is looking at getting a Planet Aid bin installed at the transfer station for people to drop off gently used clothing and shoes that they no longer want.

The clothing and shoes are then baled into large bundles and shipped to poorer countries where people can purchase the bundles and then re-sell the clothing.

As she considers ways to improve efficiencies at the transfer station, Carey said one possible avenue –– single stream recycling –– is not something she is completely sold on yet. Single stream recycling involves having paper, metal, plastic and other containers mixed together without requiring additional sorting.

However, Carey said one of her concerns is that single stream recycling actually creates a larger carbon footprint because the transfer station processes the material, then ships it to a facility where it is further processed, and then much of the material ends up back in the waste stream, anyway.

The transfer station is open Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Carey said it is helpful if people clean their plastic and glass containers, as well as tin cans before recycling them.

Republican Journal reporter Ben Holbrook can be reached at 338-3333 or at