MILO, Maine — Brownville and Milo leaders and residents met with a waste management company Thursday to discuss establishing a zero-sort recycling program that could lead to a statewide sorting facility in the area and employ 15 to 20 people.
Under the Casella Waste Systems program, the company would remove several types of cardboard, paper, glass and metal from the waste streams of both towns to significantly cut expenses over the next several years, officials said.
The towns’ leaders also are considering employing Pine Tree Waste Services, a Casella subsidiary, to sort brush, wood and other biological wastes to be burned at a waste-to-electricity plant. That would reduce the towns’ carbon footprint, Brownville Town Manager Matthew S. Pineo said.
“The main issue is the cost of disposal,” Milo Town Manager Jeffrey Gahagan said. “We need to, as a region, look at ways we can reduce costs.”
Though the $45-per-ton trash disposal rate the towns pay has been stable since the early 1990s, that contract with Penobscot Energy Recovery Co. of Orrington will expire in 2018 and rates are expect to rise to as much as $100 a ton over the next decade, officials said.
It also costs about $32,000 annually for the regional waste disposal center to test ash from burned wastes for contaminants — another significant cost to be reduced. Pineo said.
“We are looking right now at how much we can recycle what’s going into a landfill right now,” Pineo said. “We are also looking at how we can convert the tonnage we burn into electricity and also to recycle our construction debris.”
Large regional businesses such as JSI Store Fixtures of Milo also are seeking to dispose of increasing amounts of wood wastes in an environmentally sound, productive manner, officials said.
The approximately 65 residents who attended the meeting seemed pleased at the notion of recycling without having to do the sorting themselves. The self-sorting programs often are discounted as bothersome.
“We don’t have to go with a full-scale plan right away. We want to see where it is comfortable, where it is workable,” Pineo told residents.
If all goes well, the program would begin in mid-2012, Pineo said. Residents from both towns would have to approve the program in town meetings before it could start.
As part of the recycling talks, Casella officials toured several spots in the area Thursday that might be a good home to a sorting center. The towns’ leaders pitched the idea of locating a center in the area recently and Casella is receptive.
At the moment, Casella, which is headquartered in Vermont and also has operations throughout Maine, New Hampshire and New York, has almost achieved the threshold in recyclables tonnage gathered statewide that would make a central Maine location worthwhile, said Jim Dunning, a Casella assistant general manager.
With its central Maine location, railroad service, open spaces, ready access to trucking firms and existing truck traffic, the Brownville-Milo area would make a good home to a sorting center and associated subsidiary businesses, Pineo said.
The prospect of accessing the area’s rails, which generally are much less expensive to employ than trucking, is enticing to Casella, Dunning said, though company officials believe it far too early to make any decisions.