The operators of a new waste processing plant in Hampden have found several potential buyers for the materials that they want to produce from the household trash of more than 100 towns and cities, including forest products giant J.D. Irving and Maine-based cement manufacturer Dragon Products Company, according to state records.
But Coastal Resources of Maine has had a hard time getting the state to approve its plans to sell off two types of end products: a fuel pellet that is made from old plastic bags, and another type of fuel that is made from paper fiber. Both energy sources are meant to be burned in boilers that would normally accept coal or biomass. Fiberight, the company that built the Coastal Resources of Maine facility, engineered those products at its pilot plant in Virginia.
Before those products can be sold, state regulators must determine that they can serve as an adequate fuel source and are not hazardous to people or the environment.
Coastal Resources of Maine is working to develop several end products from the waste that it receives, so that it can avoid having to send that waste to the landfill and can bring in revenue by selling the products. It also sells recyclables on the commodities market and plans to produce biogas that can be sent out on a Bangor Natural Gas pipeline, among other efforts.
Since last spring, representatives for Coastal Resources of Maine have been working with the Maine Department of Environmental Protection on an application for a license to sell those two types of fuel. The state agency is now reviewing laboratory results that show a range of different variables for the fuels, including moisture level, acidity and the presence of different metals and pathogens.
Coastal Resources of Maine — and the Bangor-area firm that has been handling its licensing, CES, Inc. — has worked closely with Maine DEP to complete its application and respond to the agency’s questions, according to state records.
But the Hampden operation has also pushed back against some of the agency’s requirements. In September, it argued that taking samples so that they could be tested for pathogens such as salmonella was costly and unnecessary, given that there was “minimal risk of human exposure and impact to the environment.”
It also asked Maine DEP to conditionally license the fuels prior to receiving all the laboratory results so that Coastal Resources of Maine could could start trying to sell the products and avoid sending more waste to the landfill. The Environmental Protection Agency has already determined that the products meet federal standards for fuel derived from non-hazardous waste.
In a Sept. 11 letter to Maine DEP, CES wrote that the environmental and economic costs of Coastal Resources of Maine not being able to sell off that repurposed waste have been great, particularly given the drop in global demand for recycled goods over the past few years.
“If CRM were to shutter because of the resulting economic hardship, 100 percent of [household waste] from the entire region and all of the recyclable, beneficially usable material in that stream would go to landfill, an outcome that would be environmentally devastating,” the firm said.
Representatives from the Maine DEP and Coastal Resources of Maine did not respond to requests for comment on Tuesday.
As part of its application, Coastal Resources of Maine also had to provide information about projected sales, including revenue figures and letters of interest from potential buyers. In May of this year, J.D. Irving and Dragon Products both signed letters showing their preliminary interest in buying fuel from the Hampden plant.
The Hampden plant now expects that it will be able to produce about 111 tons per day of the paper fuel and 47 tons per day of the plastic fuel, bringing in total annual revenue of $1.2 million — revenue that the towns and cities sending their waste to the facility wouldn’t have to pay to keep it afloat.
Coastal Resources of Maine also identified some companies that may want to purchase another type of end product that it intends to make from household trash: a cellulose pulp that can be used to create paper products. They include Huhtamaki, a food packaging company with facilities in Lewiston and Waterville, and ND Paper, which runs mills in Old Town and Rumford.
However, Coastal Resources of Maine said in its application that it is not yet seeking approval to sell paper pulp.