KENNEBUNKPORT, Maine — With curbside recycling poised to cost the town three times more than trash pick up after the current waste disposal contract expires at the end of this month, the town of Kennebunkport has suspended its recycling program as it searches for more cost effective solutions in the wake of a global recycling crisis.
The Board of Selectmen and Budget Board weighed the issue during the budget process earlier this spring, deciding that the increased cost of recycling disposal, over three times what it was previously with the Casella Waste Systems contract, combined with the realization that much of what people were putting in their recycling bins was going into the waste stream, led to the decision to eliminate curbside recycling.
As a result, beginning Sept. 1, Kennebunkport residents will no longer have curbside recycling. Residents have expressed surprise and frustration with the decision on social media.
At a Board of Selectmen’s meeting earlier this spring, Town Manager Laurie Smith said the move is temporary while the new Recycling Committee, along with town officials, work to come up with a new recycling program that can be included in the next budget cycle.
“Because the recycling markets changed so dramatically much of what was previously ‘recycled’ now could end up in a landfill or incinerator,” Smith said. “Their [the budget and select board’s] concern was paying for materials that weren’t actually recycled, but our hope is that a new plan can be developed for the FY21 budget.”
During the 2019 fiscal year the town paid $152 a ton to pick up and dispose of municipal waste, while recycling cost $138 a ton, Smith said. While the recycling market changed in 2018, the town was not affected because of its contract with Casella. That contract expires Aug. 31.
Due to the changes in the market, municipal waste will cost $157 a ton in fiscal year 2020, while recycling would increase up to $467 a ton for curbside collection and processing.
In January 2018, China enacted it’s “National Sword” policy, banning the import of most plastics and other materials headed to China’s recycling processors, which had handled nearly half of the world’s recyclable waste for the past quarter century.
During a presentation to the Board of Selectmen more than a year ago, Karl Ekstedt of Casella Waste Systems presented a grim outlook on the market for the products people toss into their recycling bins every day.
“If you aren’t considering and thinking when you go out to shop whether it’s not buying items that are made with plastic packaging, or not buying items made from recycled material, then you’re part of the problem,” Ekstedt said. “I can collect it all day long, but if people aren’t buying things from recycled plastic, then there’s no market for it, and then what are we supposed to do with it?”
Smith said the problem is people put out their recycling bin, and they think that they are doing their part, and it’s taken care of. That’s not the case.
“We want to do the right thing, but it’s hard when there’s no market for it,” Smith said.
Related: Turning food scraps into energy