MOUNT DESERT — By the end of the year, residents here will no longer need to dispose of their trash and recyclables separately.
The Board of Selectmen voted 5-0 Monday night to approve Public Works Director Tony Smith’s recommendation to switch to a system he called “one bin all in.”
“All the garbage and all the recycling will go into the same bag or can, whatever you put out by the side of the road now,” Smith said. “Cardboard will be included in that. It can just be stacked beside the garbage container.
“And there’s no longer any such thing as a dirty or contaminated recyclable.”
All of the garbage and recyclables will be taken to the new Coastal Resources (a subsidiary of Fiberight) processing facility in Hampden.
“They will pull the [recyclable] materials they want out of the garbage,” Smith said. “They have $70 million worth of equipment including conveyors, optical sorters and compactors.”
Mount Desert has been sending its recyclable materials to Ellsworth for processing.
“But earlier this year they eliminated some of the things we can recycle there because they didn’t have a market for it,” Smith said.
In a memo to Town Manager Durlin Lunt, he said that over the past seven years, the town’s recycling rate has been between 11 percent and 12 percent of the amount of solid waste generated. He said that figure was deceptively low because the town’s total solid waste included such things as wood waste, metals and construction demolition debris.
Still, Smith said the town can and should be recycling much more, noting that the statewide average recycling rate for 2016, the most recent year for which numbers are available, was about 37 percent.
“Coastal Resources … has set a goal for themselves to exceed the 50 percent [recycling] goal set by the state and to gradually increase to a rate of 80 percent for the reuse or recycling of the materials they receive,” Smith said.
Currently, he told the selectmen, “We have people who will recycle, people who will not and some who will [sometimes] if it’s convenient for them.”
By going to the one-bin system, he said he expects the town’s recycling rate to double or triple within the next year or two.
Smith said he looked into several alternatives to the way the town currently handles recycling, which costs about $35,500 a year. He estimates the one-bin system will save the town about $20,170.
“One-bin-all-in is my recommendation both environmentally and financially,” he said.
He told the selectmen he intends to keep the recycling center at the town’s highway garage on Sargeant Drive open for those who want to use it.
“We will have an attendant there to keep the site clean and to make sure things like mattresses, box springs and refrigerators don’t end up in the recycling bins.”
The town’s sustainability committee supports the one-bin approach, the committee’s chairman, Phil Lichtenstein, told the selectmen.
“We feel it’s probably the best option for the town … one of our best hopes for increasing our recycling rate,” he said.
Mount Desert is joining a number of other cities and towns, including Southwest Harbor, that have decided to go with the one-bin solution.