Hancock County is now recycling again after the Fiberight plant was closed for nearly 2 years. Credit: Courtesy of Fiberight

BLUE HILL, Maine – Starting next week, recyclables from the Blue Hill/Surry transfer station will be diverted from the incinerator at the Penobscot Energy Recovery Co. in Orrington and be recycled for the first time since the Coastal Resources of Maine waste facility in Hampden closed in 2020.

The town is one of the few municipalities that has restarted recycling after the Hampden plant closed more than 18 months ago. Other cities and towns have been weighing their options when it comes to recycling. Any that do want to resume will likely have to shell out more money.  

“You’re losing money doing it,” said Jeff Jewett, the Blue Hill/Surry transfer station manager.

The station, which also serves Brooklin, Brooksville and Sedgwick, will start sending its recyclables to ecomaine, a recycling center in Portland via DM&J Waste in Winterport.

Blue Hill and Surry decided to go this route because there seemed to be no resolution in sight for the Hampden plant and residents have said that recycling is a priority, Surry Select Board member Eric Treworgy said.

The Coastal Resources of Maine facility, which promised to pull recyclables from trash, processing them into reusable materials and preventing more waste going into the region’s landfills, shut down in May 2020 after it was unable to pay its bills. The Municipal Review Committee, the group that represents the 115 towns and cities that signed up to send their waste there, has been trying to sell the plant. However, neither a new owner or an imminent reopening appears likely.

“If that’s not happening, we have to do something,” Treworgy said.

The member towns of the Blue Hill/Surry transfer station will now pay $312 per load to send the trash to ecomaine, plus a tipping fee of $155 per ton. The towns have budgeted an extra $18,000 to pay for it.

Treworgy hoped that by restarting recycling, as well setting aside cardboard that the towns could sell, the transfer station could cut down on the amount of waste sent to PERC, or, even worse, the Juniper Ridge landfill.

Other towns in the area that sent waste to Hampden have also been able to restart recycling. Tremont on Mount Desert Island resumed recycling this month and now pays Eastern Maine Recycling a flat fee of $565 a month plus $75 per ton and $510 per trip for recycling, said town manager Jesse Dunbar.

How much more that will cost the town is unclear until officials can get a firm idea on the amount of recycling. Dunbar hoped that, between cutting down the overall amount of waste sent to PERC and the fact that town’s gross trash tonnage has been about 10 percent under the year’s forecast, the cost of adding recycling would fit into the current budget.

“It hopefully would be a wash for the remainder of the fiscal year at least,” Dunbar said.

Southwest Harbor, Trenton, and the Cranberry Isles are also considering similar offers from Eastern Maine Recycling. Bar Harbor, which also sent its trash to the Hampden plant, never stopped recycling and now sends its recycling to Casella Waste Systems.

Other towns have looked at whether they can swallow the extra expense. Bucksport plans to consider it during its budget sessions this year, said Susan Lessard, the town manager.  But it may be a tough ask as towns see  rising costs in other expenditures, too.

“Communities don’t have an unlimited supply of money,” Lessard said. “There’s a lot of competing needs that all have big price tags.”