Tour of Juniper Ridge Landfill in Alton, Maine with Shelby Wright on Wednesday January 19, 2022. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

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John W. Casella is chairman and CEO of Casella Waste Systems, Inc.

Recent articles in Maine continue to portray ReSource Lewiston and Casella Waste Systems as two companies scheming to hurt Maine’s environment and its economy for their own benefit. The reality is that without these two companies working together both the economy and the environment in Maine would suffer.

ReSource Lewiston processes nearly 200,000 tons of construction and demolition debris each year with over 60 percent of it being recycled or repurposed in a beneficial way. Without this facility, all that material would be considered waste. The material that is recovered is used to generate electricity, manufacture medium-density fiberboard (MDF), create new cardboard, drywall, plastic and metal products, and other miscellaneous materials.

Material that is not able to be recycled is first used for daily cover and shaping and grading at Maine’s Juniper Ridge Landfill in Old Town, reducing the need for that facility to use virgin soils. Next, larger material that cannot be recycled is used as bulking agents to allow the landfill to safely dispose of Maine’s sludge material from wastewater treatment facilities. Without these bulking agents, the landfill would not be able to accept as much sludge and that material would need to be shipped longer distances to other facilities causing negative impacts to local municipal budgets and the environment.

The material left over from ReSource Lewiston’s recycling process is not out-of-state waste, it is the byproduct of the reverse manufacturing process of a Maine company permitted to operate a business aimed at renewing resources. This is Maine waste, fits the definition of Maine waste, and is safely disposed of in Maine’s state landfill.

In the meantime, all of Maine’s hazardous waste, medical waste, and electronic waste is shipped out of state. In addition, some of the state’s municipal waste is transported to New Hampshire, and some of its recycling goes to Massachusetts.

This is a small description of what happens every day in New England – the relationship between many parts of an extensive regional waste and recycling management infrastructure that serves our businesses and homes, with each state relying on infrastructure in another to make modern life possible.

At Casella, we’re proud of the work we’ve done and the investments we’ve made in building and operating much of this publicly beneficial infrastructure.

Some folks will make the argument that this is a bad system. They will argue that waste and recycling should not cross borders, and states like New Hampshire, for example, shouldn’t dispose of waste from Massachusetts.

The irony in this argument is that some of the same people are currently fighting to block the permitting and construction of disposal and recycling infrastructure in Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

As a society, we have access to goods and services unthinkable to our grandparents. Our air and water are cleaner, we are recycling more and wasting less, and we benefit from a sophisticated, modern waste and recycling infrastructure that makes that life possible.

We are, in nearly every measure, better off than we were 40 or 50 years ago.

Some folks like to tell you, however, that things aren’t good, and are getting worse. They continue to sow the seeds of fear and discontent among others, seeking to perpetuate the narrative that there is something nefarious at play. This kind of narrative does very little to solve any of the real challenges that we face in achieving our collective goals for a circular economy and protected environment.

Creating unnecessary borders on how we manage recycling and waste makes very little sense in a region such as New England where disposal capacity, recycling facilities, and transportation infrastructure are in high demand and short supply. By allowing for shared resources to cross state lines, we can minimize the amount of infrastructure necessary to achieve maximum economic and environmental benefits for the communities we serve.