Viewpoint: Fiberight technology can put Maine on the global waste disposal map 



By Steven L. Glauberman 

In response to Donald Lodge’s Letter to the Editor, dated May 13, I would not characterize the MRC contracting with Fiberight a “pig in the poke.’ While the Hampden plant is Fiberight’s first commercial plant, Fiberight has been developing its advanced recycling technology since its formation in 2007. It built and operated two pilot plants and then upgraded one to a development plant as it devised its technology. It went through a rigorous process in building the Coastal Resources of Maine (CRM) Hampden plant and then passed a series of tests required by the Maine DEP and the MRC for licensing. The senior lenders to the plant engaged a dedicated “independent engineer” to oversee the quality of the work and the technology. I would think that Mr. Lodge and citizens of Maine would understand and agree that the development of new technology can have bumps along the way.  

Fiberight never represented it had commercial experience. The MRC knew that the Hampden plant was Fiberight’s first commercial plant. In fact, the MRC extensively studied its options for alternative solutions to the PERC plant for over three years before concluding that if they were to meet the advanced recycling desires of their member towns beyond just burning waste, they would have to take a risk: None of the major waste companies could do with waste what Fiberight had figured out. The MRC should at least be applauded for its courage in taking the risk of putting the Hampden plant on the global waste disposal map. When CRM began commercial operations in November 2019, Fiberight had accomplished what no other waste company had done anywhere – successfully and consistently convert over 50 percent of municipal solid waste into recycled products – and did so for seven months until it closed down.  

It is a tragedy that the CRM plant is closed, and blame, as usual, can be metered out in many directions. Fiberight diagnosed certain issues in the plant’s operation and developed a plan to upgrade and correct the initial operating inefficiencies that contributed to the plant to be unprofitable. They needed $2.7 million to address them. But in Q4 2019 with its equity partner in the plant no longer willing to increase its $32 million investment in the plant, Fiberight sought new sources of funding. In February 2020 Fiberight, as manager of CRM, reached an agreement with the lead institutional buyer of the senior bonds on the plant to invest the required funds. Legal agreements were completed. Then in May 2020, without warning, the institutional investor withdrew, leaving Fiberight with no option but to close the Hampden plant temporarily. It had run out of funding.  

Notwithstanding this setback, Fiberight has continued every day since May 2020 to seek new funding for the plant and supported the due diligence efforts of all the bidders since July 2020. One thing Fiberight can represent – its primary interest has been, and is today, to provide the best possible trash recycling solutions to serve the people of Maine. If the Hampden plant succeeds, regardless of who owns the plant, then the people of Maine benefit and Fiberight’s technology is validated. 

 

Steven L. Glauberman has been coming to MDI for 20 years to enjoy hiking and the life on Mount Desert Island. He now lives in Pretty Marsh. He is a lawyer admitted to practice law in the state of New York and has provided legal services with respect to Fiberight for the past 10 years. 

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