News Feature

Blue Hill
Originally published in The Weekly Packet, April 26, 2018
For now, transfer station sending recyclables for incineration

by Anne Berleant

Recyclables placed in the single-stream receptacles at the Blue Hill-Surry Transfer Station are now being hauled to Penobscot Energy Recovery Company (PERC) for incineration, a change that Blue Hill Selectman Jim Schatz said began about a month ago and is temporary.

The reason is a domino effect of a drop in the commodities market that led to significantly higher tipping fees. The transfer station began accepting zero-sort recyclables in September 2016, hauling them to EcoMaine.

Customers weren’t notified of the change because the solid waste committee, which oversees the transfer station, didn’t want customers to stop recycling.

“It was a big decision in terms of do you break the habit [of customers],” Schatz said. “I don’t think we were hiding it because it was a management decision based on cost and never meant to be permanent.”

The total revenue at EcoMaine for recyclables dropped from $129 for 3,046 tons in July 2017 to $34 for 2,722 tons in February, according to a recycling market report posted at ecomaine.org.

For the three materials where the market rate remains strong—cardboard, tin and paper—the transfer station is accepting those items pre-sorted at designated windows to sell outright on the market.

Blue Hill Selectman Vaughn Leach noted that when the Fiberight facility is completed, recyclables will be handled there. The transfer station contract with MRC/Fiberight began April 1 but construction of the facility in Hampden has yet to begin and is estimated to be at least six months from completion.

“If and when Fiberight finally gets going, if we’re still doing single stream [recycling], then that product is supposed to be able to go to Fiberight at half the cost of the solid waste” Leach said. “That’s another reason for wanting to keep it separate and not let people get out of the habit. It may turn out even cheaper than EcoMaine.”

In the interim, an eye is being kept on the commodities market prices, and EcoMaine tipping fees, for any changes.

“We felt that the idea of recycling was still being honored since it was our assumption it was a really temporary situation. We didn’t want people to throw their hands up and throw everything in the regular trash,” Schatz said.