In choosing Fiberight to serve the region’s waste requirements for the coming decades the Municipal Review Committee looked to address three key questions:
— What is the best choice for increasing recycling rates, protecting our environment and safeguarding our natural resources?
— What is the best economic decision for MRC’s 187-member communities?
— How do we develop regional infrastructure that will serve us reliably for the future, given the changing nature of the region’s trash?
Having vetted 14 other proposals, MRC chose Fiberight to build a modern waste recycling facility in Hampden, one that includes gold standard organics recycling capability. There are 330 reasons why they made the right decision.
In Europe each year 34 million tons of waste are processed through 330 Mechanical Biological Treatment (“MBT”) plants, the technology that will drive the planned Fiberight facility. It’s a proven technology, one demonstrated to increase plastics, metals and organics recycling. By 2020 there are likely to be 450 plants operational and nearly 50 million tons processed using MBT each year. MBT is a growing segment of the waste business.
Yet in their recent OpEds, PERC’s general partner and a key supporter, the Natural Resources Council of Maine, argue for maintaining the status quo in the way this region handles its waste. This, despite stagnating recycling rates, high costs associated with collection and processing of household food waste and severe economic headwinds for the PERC facility in Orrington.
The PERC facility was built 30 years ago using a design no longer in favor. While modern waste-to-energy facilities provide reliable and efficient waste processing, PERC apparently has no plans to invest in the significant upgrades required to bring the Orrington facility up to date given that its budget documents indicate it plans to reduce its maintenance budget after 2018. Additionally, the PERC facility relies heavily on subsidized electricity rates that expire in 2018. Facilities such as PERC using this older design are in decline. In fact, of the 20 similar plants built in the U.S. since the 1980s, 11 — including PERC’s sister plant in Biddeford — have been decommissioned, and more are slated for closure. Without subsidized electricity prices, these older plants don’t pay the bills.
Some have pointed to the demise of Old Town Fuel and Fiber as an example that Fiberight will not work. But it was not the technology that caused the Old Town project to fail. Instead, Old Town, Lincoln Paper and Tissue and Verso in Bucksport are just recent examples of major employers closing because they were unable to evolve their core business model in time to fit a changing landscape dictated by global market forces. These mills were once the heart of a known and trusted industry.
As an environmental business leader with decades of experience in the recycling industry, including a track record of building and operating large-scale waste projects, I know that keeping up with best practice is the foundation of a sustainable business. I have spent the last 10 years, along with a dedicated team and environmentally concerned investors, working diligently to bring a better solution to bear for our waste. With MBT we are offering the wave of the present, a proven solution that with our approach is the best way forward in the way we handle our waste.
We have shown MRC that centralized organics processing provides for twice the diversion of even the best curbside collection programs and up to 10 times that of voluntary programs. Not only will the Fiberight plant increase organics recycling, but according a recent study, here in Maine it could save up to $350 per ton in additional collection costs.
We agree with the BDN in that both approaches include risk, but times are changing and PERC is not. Our plan includes a team with unparalleled experience and a growing, proven technology. Our facility will be one part waste processing, one part pulp and paper and one part biotech. We know the labor pool in this region includes men and women with as much experience in these areas as in any part of the country. Our upcoming job fairs will provide opportunity for anyone with interest to see firsthand the details and the jobs that will be available.
The coming months represent a flurry of municipal presentations, discussions, deliberations and votes. History has taught us that resting on our laurels can only result in slow decline. The better way forward is to evolve with the times; Fiberight offers this evolution — the experience of 330 operating plants shows us the way forward.
Craig Stuart-Paul is founder and CEO of Fiberight.