Changes are in store for household trash in more than 100 towns and cities across eastern Maine.
In the coming weeks, those communities will start sending all of their residents’ waste to a new processing facility in Hampden called Coastal Resources of Maine.
In some places, residents will notice changes. In others, they might not.
We recently asked you what questions you had about the new waste disposal arrangements and the Hampden plant.
Here are the answers:
Will residents have to change anything about what they do with their waste?
It will vary from community to community, according to Michael Carroll, executive director of the Municipal Review Committee, the group that represents the waste disposal interests of those 115 communities.
Many, including Brewer and Bangor, will stop separately collecting recyclables. Instead, trash and recyclables will go into the same bin — no need to separate one from the other. Technology at the Hampden plant is supposed to separate recyclables from all the rest once the waste has arrived there.
Of the 115 communities, a half dozen have decided to continue separate recycling collection to take advantage of a 50 percent discount Fiberight — the company behind the Hampden plant — offers on loads of recyclables only, according to Shelby Wright, director of community services at Coastal Resources of Maine.
What changes are happening in Bangor?
The separate, every-other-week recyclables collection will end in Bangor the week of Sept. 3.
Residents who leave their trash at the curbside can continue to use whatever trash bags or containers they have in the past.
But the city says households will have to limit how much waste they leave for curbside pickup each week. The limit is the equivalent of five, 32-gallon bags each weighing 30 pounds. According to the city’s Facebook page, this limit won’t affect most households, which averaged 38 pounds of waste per week last year.
What should Bangor and Brewer households do with bulky cardboard boxes?
In both cities, bulky cardboard can be broken down and stacked on the curbside next to bags and barrels of trash.
Where can I learn more about the changes in Bangor?
The changes are outlined in two recent posts from Aug. 14 and Aug. 16 on the city’s Facebook page. Some information, including how to dispose of other waste such as tires and yard debris, is available on the city website, bangormaine.gov/trash.
What’s changing in Brewer?
At the start of September, Brewer households will also stop separating their recycling from trash.
In addition, Brewer will end the requirement that households buy special 33-gallon orange bags for curbside trash collection. Those bags cost $2 each.
Instead of bags, residents will have to buy special orange tags — each costing $2 and sold at a variety of local stores. Residents will attach those tags to the bags of waste they leave at the curb for weekly collection. Residents will simply throw trash and recyclables into the same bag — no need to separate.
Given that recyclables and trash will now go together in the same bags, won’t this cost Brewer residents more?
“We do not think so,” the city said in a pamphlet available on its website. “We expect the majority of residents will see a saving.”
That’s because residents will pay the same price, $2, for tagged bags to be taken away, but they can use larger bags than 33-gallon orange ones. Residents can fit more waste into the larger bags at the same price.
Will the total cost of sending waste to Fiberight’s plant be less or greater for the Municipal Review Committee communities, compared to when they used to send it to the Penobscot Energy Recovery Co. incinerator in Orrington?
It will vary.
The cost for MRC communities to dispose of mixed waste at the Hampden facility, $70-per-ton, is less than the $76-per-ton that some communities now pay to dispose of their waste at the Orrington incinerator.
But the overall costs for each town will also include the price of trucking mixed waste away from the curb or transfer station, which can vary from place to place. Some towns may save money because they no longer have to pay for extra hauling of their recyclables, according to Carroll.
When will Coastal Resources of Maine be fully running and taking all waste from communities in the Municipal Review Committee?
After originally saying it would open more than a year ago, in April 2018, Fiberight — the company behind the Hampden plant — now expects the plant will be able to accept all waste generated by the Municipal Review Committee communities at some point in September, according to Wright. The facility began accepting intermittent deliveries of waste in April and has been ramping up operations since then, but it still has not come fully online.
Will the Hampden plant still be able to recycle or reuse paper or cardboard that has been contaminated by dirty diapers, dog poop, kitchen grease or other waste?
Yes, according to Wright. Fiberight has designed its plant to extract contaminants from the different types of paper and cardboard — what it calls “fiber materials.” It plans to convert those fiber materials into cellulose pulp that can be sold on the open market for purposes such as paper manufacturing. It also hopes to use the contaminants themselves to produce other materials. By doing so, it says it will avoid the need to pay to send those materials to the landfill.
What is Coastal Resources of Maine planning to do with glass?
The plant will crush and wash the glass so that it can be used in construction projects or as a cover material in landfills.
What will happen to the different categories of plastic? What kind of products will they be made into?
Fiberight plans to bail plastics #1, #2 and #5 and sell them on the commodities market, as they remain valuable. It will use #4 — and some #2 — to produce plastic fuel briquettes. It will send plastics #3, #6 and #7 to an outside location that plans to use them for experimental fuel testing.
What requirements does Fiberight have for how much waste it must divert from the landfill?
The Maine Department of Environmental Protection will require the Hampden plant to divert at least half its waste away from the landfill each year. But Fiberight hopes to divert as much as 80 percent, Wright said.
Since Fiberight’s plant was originally expected to open in April 2018, how much waste have Municipal Review Committee communities been forced to send to landfills during the transition period?
From April 2018 through last month, the communities have sent 109,283 tons of waste to landfills during the transition, or an average of 6,830 tons a month, according to data from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.
When will the back end of the plant that converts waste into different end products be fully running, so that Fiberight can sell those products to generate revenue and make the facility financially viable?
The front end of the plant will sort out recyclables from the trash. The back end will further break down the waste so it can be converted into a variety of end products.
The back end of the plant is built, and Fiberight has started running some machines, including a pulper that converts paper into a cellulose pulp and another mechanism that condenses plastics down into fuel briquettes.
But the company is still refining those production lines and working with Maine Department of Environmental Protection to obtain the permits it needs to sell the end products in Maine. The company also has yet to start using an anaerobic digester to convert food waste and other organic matter into a biogas that will be pumped into a Bangor Natural Gas pipeline, from which the gas will be distributed to Bangor Natural Gas customers.
How has the crashed recycling market — caused by China enacting much stricter standards for what recyclables it will import from the U.S. — affected the Hampden plant’s business plan?
Fiberight has designed its technology to “be independent of volatile market fluctuations,” Wright said. “Overall, our process allows us to be flexible with traditional recycling markets but not dependent on them for a revenue stream as we have other methods for producing and marketing recovered materials.”
Will towns and cities that aren’t part of the Municipal Review Committee be able to send their waste to Fiberight’s plant, and if so, how?
Yes. Interested communities can visit the Coastal Resources of Maine website or contact Wright at email@example.com, but they could have to pay different disposal fees from what the Municipal Review Committee communities pay.