BAR HARBOR — A complaint of noisy glass-crushing at the transfer station prompted the Town Council to change how the town disposes of glass.
Town councilors voted 5-1-1 last Tuesday to eliminate glass recycling and instead ask residents to dispose of it in the trash. In a separate unanimous vote, the council also discontinued the no-cost bulky waste disposal program offered to town residents.
According to Public Works Director Chip Reeves, that option will cost the town extra, but will ultimately serve the same purpose. As trash undergoes processing at the new Fiberight facility in Hampden, glass will be sorted out and recycled.
“Even though they would rather not have glass to come to them,” Reeves said of Fiberight, “the facility is built to handle it. They’ve got a glass crushing operation. The material would still be recycled in the same manner it’s recycled now.”
The former method of residents separating glass for disposal at Eastern Maine Recycling (EMR), cost the town about $450 per year, Reeves said. It costs the town to recycle, he explained, because “there really aren’t any glass markets, so much of this material now gets used as fill materials” for construction companies, particularly as aggregate in concrete and asphalt mixtures.
The new procedure will cost the town $2,100 per year, Reeves estimated. He shared both figures with the council before the issue came to vote.
Councilor Erin Cough spoke in favor of sending glass out with the trash to Fiberight, “where it ultimately gets recycled anyway,” she said, “[and] it doesn’t annoy our citizens.”
Council Chair Gary Friedmann disagreed.
“I would prefer to see the recycling task force or the conservation commission be tasked with trying to muffle the sound,” he said. “I’m very troubled that we would so easily haul it all up to Hampden. There is a cost: it’s a couple thousand dollars more for the town, and it’s more fuel.”
Friedmann said telling people not to separate glass any more is a step backwards. “It’s a message,” he said, “[that] tells people we really don’t care about recycling in this town.”
Councilor Paul Paradis countered, “What I get is: it’s still getting recycled in the same manner it was before.”
The council voted to eliminate the current glass recycling program with EMR, with Paradis, Cough, Matthew Hochman, Stephen Coston, Judie Noonan voting in favor, Friedmann opposed, and Joe Minutolo abstaining.
Minutolo recused himself from the vote, he said, because his brother is one of the residents in the neighborhood near the transfer station.
In a separate vote, the council also discontinued a bulky waste disposal program that the town used to fund for residents. According to a May 16 memo from Chip Reeves, the program that allowed anyone with a Bar Harbor address to dispose of large items for free at EMR has been abused. “Over recent years,” Reeves wrote, “this service has morphed into commercial entities giving a Bar Harbor address and receiving the benefit of free bulky waste disposal.”
According to Reeves, this even included “large scale motels bringing pulp truck loads and roll of containers of mattresses to EMR for free disposal.”
Councilors voted unanimously to discontinue funding the program. “It seems to make sense for the people who are actually using [bulky waste disposal] to pay for it,” Hochman said.
Cough agreed, noting that it would help balance the budget after voting to spend more on glass disposal. “The extra money we spend [on glass] will be made up by getting rid of bulky waste,” she said.