A nonprofit organization in Hancock that has provided recycling services to five eastern Hancock County towns has decided to close its doors near the end of April.
It is the latest example of how long-held community recycling practices in Maine are being disrupted by changes in the global supply and demand for recyclable goods such as paper, cardboard, and plastic.
Joyce Levesque, manager for Coastal Recycling, said Wednesday that the organization’s board decided to end operations because the price it can get for the types of material it collects has dropped sharply over the past year or so. Already, she said, Coastal Recycling has stopped collecting glass and newspaper.
“The prices have gone down,” she said, adding that the amount of material that people have been bringing to Coastal Recycling also has decreased. “Not as many people are recycling.”
Area towns that use Coastal Recycling for their municipal recycling programs include Franklin, Hancock, Sorrento, Sullivan and Winter Harbor. She said the organization also is contracted to accept cardboard collected in the area by private recycling haulers Mark Wright and Waste Management.
Several Maine towns, including Ellsworth, Gouldsboro and a handful of towns in Greater Bangor, have scrapped or curtailed their recycling programs because the global market has pushed the cost of the service well above their budgets. Municipalities generally had been paying around $20 to $40 per ton to have their recycling hauled away, but since last summer they have seen those prices rise to around $150 per ton.
The changes have been prompted by a 2017 decision by China, the world’s largest importer of waste, to stop importing 24 types of waste from the United States, Europe and other countries in 2018, and to enforce its limits for accepting waste contaminated with nonrecyclable material.
Other countries still accept some of the types of items produced in large quantities in the American waste stream, but the lack of buyers has resulted in haulers greatly increasing their prices for taking it away.
Levesque said that the town of Hancock owns the parcel of land where Coastal Recycling is located, off Route 182 about a half mile from Route 1. Coastal Recycling likely will sell off its equipment after it closes, she said.
But she cautioned that the organization’s board could revisit its decision to shut down on April 27.
“That could change,” she said.