Montville Selectmen's meeting

Recycling center to accept plastics once again

By Fran Gonzalez | Feb 04, 2020
Source: File photo

Montville — Unity Area Regional Recycling Center directors told selectmen and residents at the Jan. 27 board meeting the center will once again take most plastics after addressing a storage problem at the facility. Those present also heard about a new bill that could have packaging manufacturers and municipalities working together to reduce the waste stream.

Founded in 1991, UARRC is composed of eight member towns, including Dixmont, Freedom, Jackson, Knox, Montville, Thorndike, Troy and Unity, with the goal of reducing the amount of trash entering the solid waste stream; each town pays a share of operating costs.

Freedom Director Meredith Coffin said the center located a buyer who will pick up plastics from the center but would need to guarantee a 10-bale minimum to make the deal work. In order for UARRC to have the capacity to fulfill this quantity, the center is hoping to complete a 60-by-36-foot expansion gravel pad to accommodate a 40-foot container. If that happens, Coffin said, the center could be ready to accept plastics by May 1.

Funding for the project would come from $5,000 to $7,000 saved by reducing staffing, she said, to one full-time employee and one half-time, with any additional funding coming from a surplus account. In her report, she also noted the project will need committee approval if the storage plan exceeds $10,000. As of Feb. 4, the center was still waiting on three estimates from contractors.

Earlier this year, the Montville Board of Selectmen signed a letter of intent, placing an article on the town warrant asking residents to vote on whether to withdraw from the UARRC contract. Coffin said Freedom selectmen placed a similar article on their town warrant to be voted on at town meeting, but because of the recent developments, had withdrawn the article. According to the procedural language in the contract, towns must give UARRC a year's notice before withdrawing.

The presentation from the UARRC representatives to the selectmen was in response to a letter Montville selectmen had sent to the center, urging it to present changes in its operating procedures to "make remaining in the contract cost-effective." The town currently pays over $10,000 to be part of the eight-town recycling collaborative.

Because of global market conditions, namely China's cutting imports of most recyclable plastics and other materials in 2018, UARRC's list of acceptable plastics has been shrinking over the past two years. Currently, the center does not accept rigid, numbers 1, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 plastics or glass.

Montville, along with over 115 other towns, opted to change its municipal waste processor, Penobscot Energy Recovery Co., when its contract was up in 2018, and began a new partnership with Coastal Resources/Fiberight.

Using optical sorting, magnets, electrical fields and density, different types of materials, including glass, plastics, metals and cardboard, are separated from the waste stream at Coastal and recycled for reuse as raw materials, according to its website. Michael Carroll, executive director of the Municipal Review Committee, a nonprofit that manages solid waste for member towns, said previously that recycling would increase by "co-mingling" of items in the single-stream model.

Maine Public reported on this topic, saying that while more people might be inclined to recycle, conveniently putting everything in one container, contamination is a problem. Wet paper and bits of broken glass cannot be sorted and end up in a landfill. What single-stream wins in volume, the report said, it sacrifices in quality, adding that about a quarter of single-stream recycling goes to the dump.

Second Selectman Cathy Roberts asked how the recycling center would fit along with Coastal Resources/Fiberight, even if materials would not be as clean and mingled together. Roberts noted Coastal is another alternative.

The town is looking at different options for recycling, Roberts said, in part because of the limited materials accepted at the UARRC, and also because of concerns regarding hauling.

“We have an old box truck and an old packer truck, and neither one is going to survive probably the summer,” she said. One option she mentioned was contracting with a hauler to have a packer truck onsite at the transfer station.

Recycling figures over the last several years show Montville having fewer than 30 tons of material a year for recycling. “It averages more like 25 tons of all recycling materials, including cardboard and paper,” Roberts said.

Currently, Roberts said, the town uses the box truck to bring recyclables to UARRC and the packer truck to haul materials to the Coastal Resources facility in Hampden.

“In doing the math in terms of moving that material to Coastal Resources with the packer truck or some other means, at $75 a ton, just looking at the economics of it, we are not bringing that much to the recycling center to warrant buying another box truck, looking at that as an alternative,” she said.

Guest speaker Christine Adamowicz of the Natural Resources Council of Maine also spoke at the selectmen's meeting on a bill being worked on in Augusta that aims to aid municipalities with recycling initiatives, effectively kick-starting programs.

The proposed product stewardship law would make manufacturers take responsibility for the waste produced by their packaging. Manufacturers that produce more recyclable packaging would pay a lower fee than those that do not and municipalities would be reimbursed for recycling programs.

The new program would require producers of packaging to assist municipalities in managing and financing packaging waste disposal and recycling programs. It shifts recycling and disposal costs from taxpayers to producers.

A third-party nonprofit consortium of brand owners would collect fees from producers and distribute the funds to municipalities, Adamowicz said. In the big picture, the total manufacturers would pay per container is negligible, she said.

Rep. Stanley Paige Zeigler, D-Montville, who is also the UARRC board chairman, noted that while the program would be a step in the right direction, the bill, which has not made it through the Legislature yet, most likely would not be made law until next year.

The multi-layered options for recycling in Montville will be on the warrant for discussion at the March 28 town meeting.

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