The executive director of Municipal Review Committee, which represents more than 180 Maine communities that send their trash to Penobscot Energy Recovery Co., visited Belfast Jan. 6 to present a plan for a new state-of-the-art solid waste processing and recycling facility in Hampden.

In the audience were representatives of several Waldo County municipalities, including Belfast, Liberty and others.

For several years, MRC has been planning to develop a new solid waste processing and recycling facility because Orrington-based PERC's power purchase agreement expires in 2018. The company has been selling electricity at rates above market value but that will change once its the purchase agreement expires, MRC Executive Director Greg Lounder said. At that point, PERC would have to raise its tipping fees to more than $100 per ton to account for the decline in revenue from selling the electricity it generates by burning trash, Lounder said. Tipping fees, also known as disposal fees, are paid to PERC by users, based on tonnage.

The MRC was created in 1991 to work with PERC to improve operating and economic performance of the company's Orrington facility, according to the nonprofit's website. The group represents 187 municipalities in the state that send their trash to PERC.

Concerned about PERC's economic viability post-2018, MRC began looking at technologies that would be more economical and efficient for processing solid waste, Lounder said. After soliciting vendors about the design and performance of facilities that use emerging technology to process mixed solid waste, MRC signed an agreement early in 2015 with Maryland-based Fiberight.

Fiberight uses technology that can convert trash into biofuel and the facility would recover about 80 percent of the mixed waste, which would result in less material ending up in a landfill, Lounder explained.

Some of the products Fiberight can recover, according to documents provided by MRC, include:

  • liquid fuel products such as ethanol
  • bio-gas from anaerobic digestion of organic waste components
  • biomass pulp products that might be used as pulp or biomass fuel
  • clean plastic flakes that emerge from the wash process
  • textiles recovered from the mixed-waste stream
  • other high-value products such as ferrous metals, aluminum cans and cardboard

The facility would also generate almost all of its needed operational energy in-house.

Lounder said participating municipalities would pay a tipping fee of $70 per ton for mixed waste, adjusted for increases in the Consumer Price Index. Those fees could be offset by rebates when revenues exceed certain thresholds, Lounder said. Communities that send presorted recyclables to the facility would pay a $35 tipping fee.

Fiberight operates a commercial demonstration facility in Virginia and is constructing another facility in Iowa. An audience member then asked why, if Fiberight's technology is so good, the company doesn't have more plants open.

“This technology is up-and-coming. It's young. I won't dispute that,” Lounder said.

As proposed, the new facility would be built on a 90-acre parcel of land bounded by Interstate 95, Coldbrook Road and Ammo Industrial Park in Hampden, Lounder said. MRC would own the land and pay to build an access road, he said, as well as provide water and sewer service to the site.

Fiberight, in turn, will finance, construct and own the facility. However, provisions in an agreement would allow MRC to redevelop the land in the event Fiberight's facility fails.

After polling communities, MRC wanted a vendor that would pay to build and operate a facility, Lounder said. While polled municipalities were open to the idea of owning a trash-processing facility, there was concern about having to borrow money locally to construct such a plant, he said.

Once MRC secures agreements with towns to deliver at least 150,000 tons of solid waste per year to the new facility, the nonprofit organization will purchase and develop the 90-acre site. Lounder said Fiberight could begin construction of the facility later this year. The facility would then be operational by April 1, 2018, he said.

If, for some reason, Fiberight is not ready to begin operating, Lounder said MRC has secured an agreement to send solid waste to Crossroads Landfill in Norridgewock.

“The more we hang together, the better off we'll be,” Lounder said.