BANGOR, Maine — Members of the group representing the trash-disposal interests of nearly 200 Maine towns were briefed Wednesday on progress made toward operating their own recycling and processing facility.
Perhaps the biggest news for Municipal Review Committee members is that its partner, Fiberight, has landed a major equity investor in the effort to build a $69 million facility in Hampden that would turn trash into biofuel and recycle other materials.
In February, the Municipal Review Committee officially partnered with Maryland-based Fiberight LLC to create a solid waste recycling and biofuels processing facility located in the “triangle” area between Ammo Industrial Park, Interstate 95 and Coldbrook Road.
During the group’s annual meeting on Wednesday, Fiberight CEO Craig Stuart-Paul said that Fiberight has negotiated a 15-year deal with Covanta Energy Corp., which would construct and operate the plant. A major player on the trash scene, Covanta owns and operates more than 40 waste-to-energy facilities.
If the necessary approvals are received, Fiberight will build a 90,000-square-foot plant in Hampden that would replace the Penobscot Energy Recovery Co., a waste-to-energy plant in Orrington where member communities’ trash is sent to be burned and made into electricity.
Despite the progress made to date, however, there is a chance that the plan won’t move forward.
As it stands, member municipalities are sending about 180,000 tons of waste to PERC each year. In order for the Fiberight project to work out financially, members must be able to commit to providing a minimum of 150,000 tons of trash per year.
If that threshold isn’t met by the middle of next year, the project will not go forward and the group will have to go back to the drawing board, Municipal Review Committee Executive Director Greg Lounder said.
“I want to emphasize the importance of our collective strength as 187 Maine communities. Our ability to stay together collectively through the years is a significant reason that we’ve always been successful, and it’s an important reason moving forward that we do all we can to leverage our collective strength as communities,” Lounder said.
“The way to avoid failure is to stick together,” he said.
In an effort to encourage cities and towns to sign on early rather than wait to see how the project fares, the group’s board has decided to charge latecomers an additional $2.21 per ton over the $70-per-ton tipping fee, and said that during the first 15-year term, those communities will not be eligible for rebates.
The Municipal Review Committee is a nonprofit organization formed in 1991 to address the garbage disposal interests of 187 municipalities.
The group’s leaders started looking for alternatives five years ago because they believe PERC, of which it is part owner, will not be profitable after 2018, when lucrative agreements for the electric power it generates expire.
At the Hampden plant, Fiberight’s technology will change organic materials in trash into biofuels, after the glass, metals, papers and plastics are recycled.