BAR HARBOR — Public Works Director Chip Reeves wants Bar Harbor residents to know that when they deposit their recyclable materials in the new single-sort receptacle at the transfer station, it is in fact getting recycled.
There is “a glut of recyclables in the market,” he said, due mainly to China reducing their importation of recycled paper, cardboard, and other materials. Because of this, towns that used to generate money by selling their recyclables must now pay to get rid of some of them.
Reeves says that while Canada is still willing to buy our cardboard, there are no current buyers for plastics or mixed paper.
Added to this, a new facility in Hampden, that will be processing recycling as well as trash, has experienced delays in opening.
The Fiberight facility is now expected to open in October of this year, and become fully operational in early 2019.
Original estimates were for an April 2018 opening. Reeves says the delays are attributable to appeals to a Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) permit from a competing waste management business.
Until Fiberight opens, Bar Harbor has a short-term agreement with the Old Town Transfer Station for the town’s recycling. From Old Town, the materials are taken to Casella Waste Systems in Auburn.
Reeves says the town of Bar Harbor chose to go to the single-sort recycling method before the recycling market collapsed.
“We used to sort and sell on the market,” he said. “But that was labor-intensive, and it was hard to find people to do the work.” He says single-sort saves the town time and money.
The Bar Harbor Recycling Committee also recommended single-sort as a way to encourage businesses to recycle.
Reeves serves as board president of the Municipal Review Committee, (MRC), a group of municipalities that currently send waste to the Penobscot Energy Recovery Company facility in Orrington. Some MRC communities have committed to sending their waste and recycling to Fiberight as soon as it is operational.
“We are looking for Fiberight to handle trash and recycling, and take the compostable portions and make a pulp and extract methane gas,” Reeves said.
“They’ll be creating a different kind of energy,” he said. PERC is also a waste-to-energy facility, burning trash in a special incinerator to generate electricity. The rate PERC receives for that power has gone down this year.
The International Energy Agency (IEA) and the EPA both encourage methane energy production as a clean and affordable source of energy. According to IEA literature, methane is a byproduct produced by landfills, as well as by coal mining, manure, and natural gas. If it escapes to the atmosphere, it becomes a potent “greenhouse gas” and it can also contaminate water sources.
But when methane gas is collected, it can be used as an energy source, either as a gas or processed into liquid biofuels.
Fiberight also operates a similar plant in Virginia, which also converts municipal solid waste into biofuel.