Letter to the Editor: Single-stream recycling works

To the Editor:

As someone who has carefully separated recyclables from trash for quite a while, my town’s recent change to a single stream system made me uneasy. A mechanized system of sorting trash? How would that work? As I understood it, the Coastal Resources of Maine (Fiberight) company had combined elements of methods, used in Europe and elsewhere, to allow them to separate trash in a way that is quite new. However, with all the delays getting the facility up and running, and recent news of a mishap, I wondered if the system was flawed and that my recyclables were ending up in a landfill.

Today I got to visit the facility in Hamden, and I have good news. The process is working! The trash is dropped off in a huge warehouse where it’s loaded onto belts that carry it through a series of stages. Most of the cardboard, paper, metal and #1 and #2 plastic are being extracted and recycled. The other plastics are being made into an engineered fuel for which a market is being sought. The food and other organic materials undergo anaerobic digestion to be converted into a biogas to run the operation. Any remaining waste goes to a landfill.

At peak efficiency it is estimated that 80 percent of materials received would be recycled, currently it’s about 55 percent. Since only 25 percent of consumers were recycling a portion of their trash before the change, this is a vast improvement. The process is still not perfect, but that’s not necessarily the company’s fault. We all need to think about what we put in the trash. A propane tank would seem to be questionable throwaway; nevertheless, a punctured tank caused a recent explosion, and a plant slowdown. Any rope, tarp or hose over three feet can get caught in the machinery and bring work to a grinding halt. A list of items that should not be sent to CRM can be found at the company’s website: www.coastalresourcesme.com. In most cases there are existing systems for recycling tires, batteries, bottles and plastic bags/film.

I asked the company representative what she’d most like the public to know about Coastal Resources of Maine. She answered, “I’d just like them to know that we’re getting recycling done.”

Maggie Harling



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