Rising recycling costs has led a small-town Maine recycler to close after 25 years.
Joyce Levesque, the manager of Hancock-based Coastal Recycling, which serves five towns, says a combination of rising prices, contamination and a dwindling market makes it “tough to keep the place open.”
She adds, “People aren’t recycling like they used to, and the prices are way down and the towns don’t want to up their appropriations. We’re not really making enough" to stay open.
Coastal Recycling accepts single-stream curbside recycling and serves as a drop-off location for newspaper, cardboard, plastic and aluminum cans. The organization will stop accepting material after April 27.
Levesque says Coastal doesn’t get as much material anymore, in part, because nearby towns have stopped collections. Gouldsboro, a neighboring town, stopped its recycling program last summer, citing rising costs. Levesque says tipping fees rose from $40 per to $140 per ton within three years.
When Levesque came to Coastal Recycling 19 years ago, she remembers working five days a week and processing cardboard for companies like Waste Management.
"Now I’m sitting on two loads of cardboard and the mills keep saying they’re not going to take anymore for a month of two,” Levesque says.
Northeast Recycling Council (NERC) reports manufactures in the northeastern U.S. have closed, making it hard for recyclers to find somewhere to ship and process material.
“The mills aren’t paying anything anymore. We have to take it to New York and they charge $1,500 per freight," Levesque says.
She also says contamination is an issue.
“When they started doing single stream, we said that was going to be demise of a lot of small recyclers, and it has been,” she says. “A lot of people think they can put anything in there, and that’s not the way it is. You’re still supposed to clean it and not have chairs and shoes in there. That’s not recycling. That’s dumping your trash, and consequently a lot of stuff from single stream goes to the landfill.”
Currently, most municipal solid waste (MSW) and recycling is either going to an incinerator or being sent to the landfill, Levesque says.
Some of the former Coastal Recycling towns plan to send recyclables to Fiberight, a Hampden, Maine-based waste-to-energy facility, which has yet to open. Fiberight would accept waste, single-stream recycling and organics.
“We’re supposed to get Fiberight, but some of the towns didn’t sign on with them, so they’re going to have to find a different avenue,” Levesque says.