ORRINGTON, Maine — The organization representing more than 180 Maine towns that dispose of trash at the Penobscot Energy Recovery Co. waste-to-energy plant in Orrington is considering creating its own landfill and recycling facility to reduce costs.
With the end of a lucrative rubbish disposal contract between the Municipal Review Committee Inc. and PERC ending in 2018, committee leaders are taking steps now to open a replacement facility, the organization’s leader said Friday.
Nothing is set in stone, but the planned integrated solid waste management site may incorporate a zero-sort recycling facility that gathers glass, metals, papers and plastics into bales that are sold on the commodities market. It also would include a plant that takes organic materials and changes them into pulp that is distilled into the fuel ethanol, Greg Lounder, executive director of the committee, announced Friday.
“There is great potential to eliminate waste and reduce costs,” he said while discussing the 2-inch-thick plan, which will go before the Maine Department of Environmental Protection on April 2. “We’re certainly excited about the possibilities.”
Committee leaders are submitting an application for a public benefit determination by the Maine DEP for a solid waste facility with landfill in Greenbush or Argyle, Lounder said.
“MRC is advancing an alternative waste management system so that the communities will be prepared if the current waste management system cannot be sustained beyond April 2018 when an advantageous power purchase agreement supporting PERC’s current operations expires,” he said in a press release.
A private-public partnership, PERC is owned 77 percent by Minneapolis-based USA Energy Group and PERC Holdings, and 23 percent by the original member towns and cities that became part of the Municipal Review Committee Inc. before 1998.
As part owner, the Municipal Review Committee knows what the PERC books look like, and it says when the “higher than market value” contracts for electricity with Bangor-Hydro Electric Co., now called Emera, expire in 2018, the costs to use the Orrington facility will have to increase.
In recent negotiations, PERC has said it will want to at least double the current tipping fees, which now range from $51 to $54 a ton for the 187 communities, Lounder said.
Messages left for PERC plant manager Peter Prata late Friday were not immediately returned.
If the new facility project is successful, Municipal Review Committee leaders predict that customers would pay “a little more than what we’re paying now, but certainly a lot less than the [projected 2018] tipping fees,” Lounder said.
No cost estimates for the approximately 80,000-square-foot processing facility and associated landfill were provided.
PERC took in 311,630 tons of municipal solid waste in 2012 and generated nearly 166,261 megawatts of electricity, according to the Municipal Review Committee website.
An effective integrated solid waste management system “considers how to prevent, recycle, and manage solid waste in ways that most effectively protect human health and the
The Municipal Review Committee hasn’t determined exactly what it plans to put into place at the Greenbush or Argyle sites, which range from 600 to 800 acres, but are saying that it will include “a secure landfill which is necessary for the waste that cannot be diverted for recycling, composting, processing or another beneficial reuse.”
If approved by the Maine DEP, the site only will accept waste originating in Maine, he said.
“We are getting started with the most time‐intensive element of the regulatory review process so that the communities are in a position to implement the best option in 2018,” said Lounder, who went to Greenbush on Thursday to talk with town leaders and residents.
Others from the group have gone door to door in Argyle, a community of 277 according to the 2010 Census, trying to inform residents about their plans. The Land Use Planning Commission and the Penobscot County commissioners will be part of the planning process in Argyle because it’s within Maine’s Unorganized Territory, Lounder said.
The public benefit determination application, which is based upon a demonstrated capacity need, is the first step in a long Maine DEP application and licensing process. If the plan is approved, the Municipal Review Committee will still have a lot of work ahead of it, he said.
“[The] subsequent licensing processes will include extensive review by regulators and multiple opportunities for formal and informal public input,” Lounder said.
Community leaders all over the state have been talking for years about the expiring PERC contract, with some such as Brewer implementing zero-sort recycling to increase recycling and reduce what is sent to the plant in Orrington. Bangor leaders followed suit earlier this month and will start zero-sort recycling in June.
Recycled materials from Brewer are sent to Casella Solid Waste in Auburn, Mass.
The Bay State company’s website shows a video that demonstrates how the items are separated. Items are placed on a conveyer that allows glass to fall through grates, magnets take out cans, and aluminum cans are repelled by a reverse magnetic field called an eddy current. An optical eye separates plastics from paper products by color.
“The truth is the Earth needs us to recycle more,” the video states. “Most of the items we use in our daily lives can be recycled or are made from recycled materials. Recycling is the right thing to do.”
Around 72 percent of the communities in the Municipal Review Committee have said they support the group’s future plans, Lounder said.
Dexter and Guilford town leaders have said that increased cost for municipal waste was a concern, and in January leaders in both communities signed a resolution to urge the group to “continue its mission by providing a regional solid waste solution beyond 2018 for the benefit of the charter municipalities.”
The full application and information about this process are available at www.mrcmaine.org.