WATERVILLE —  A regional recycling center run by a nonprofit organization is losing so much money that it plans to stop taking paper, plastic, cans and glass starting July 1.

However, Skills Recycling will continue recycling computers and electronics including television sets at its 60 Industrial Park site, according to Thomas Davis, Skills’ chief executive officer.

“The last six years, we’ve lost a little bit north of $400,000,” Davis said Wednesday. “This year alone, we’re going to lose between $90,000 and $100,000, so the hole’s gotten bigger over time.”

Waterville City Manager Michael Roy said the city plans to make up for the recycling loss by hiring a company to put a container on the Skills site to take the recyclables.

“We’ll do everything we can so there is no break in the recycling,” Roy said.

The Skills recycling facility has separate containers for items such as plastic and paper. Roy said the future container would be a “single stream” receptacle, meaning that recyclables would not be sorted. People would dump everything into one bin.

If the Skills site is not large enough for the container, the city will find another location for it, he said.

“We’re going to bid it out. We’re going to ask for companies to provide a container, short-term; long term, we’re going to consider any and all options, not only for recycling, but also for trash disposal.”

Davis said the problem with recycling paper, plastic, cans and glass is threefold: The price for the commodities plunged at the end of 2008 and has not come back up, there is not enough volume in the Waterville and Winslow area for Skills to break even, and the recycling model is shifting.

“Single-stream really is the future of recycling,” he said.

The recycling of electronics is doing well, he said. As people use more and more technology-related items, there is a need to dispose of them in an environmentally safe way, he said. Colby, Bates and Bowdoin colleges, as well as businesses, recycle computers and electronics at the center, Davis said.

The city of Waterville pays Skills $12,500 annually for recycling. Waterville also sends regular trash to the Oakland Transfer Station, where it is compacted and sent to Penobscot Energy Recovery Co., also known as PERC, in Orrington for incineration.

“For every ton that we don’t recycle, that stuff goes in the trash, so that’s why we want to keep the recycling rate the same as it is going forward and hopefully increase it,” Roy said.

Roy estimated the city’s per-ton cost for recycling in the $30-to-$40 range. He said the city pays a net total of $72 a ton for trash. That figure includes fees for the Oakland Transfer Station and the disposal fee at PERC.

He said he hopes the city’s cost for a container would be close to the $12,500 the city now pays Skills for recycling.

Winslow pays Skills about $8,500 a year to recycle at the center, according to Winslow Public Works Director Paul Fongemie. He said that town is considering options for recycling elsewhere when Skills ceases June 30.

Skills serves people with developmental disabilities, providing them with jobs, housing and support.

Recycling center manager Ray Buker said three staff members and nine clients work at the recycling facility, which celebrated its 20th year in June .

He said he does not think the change will cause any job losses.

“I’m hoping, with our transition, that we’re going to be able to hire more,” he said.

Waterville and Winslow, as well as businesses, colleges, schools and individuals from central Maine and beyond, recycle at the facility, he said.

“We don’t turn anybody away,” Buker said.

In 2006, Davis merged Ken-A-Set, which was based in the Waterville and Skowhegan areas, and Sebasticook Valley Farms, which was in the Pittsfield and Hartland areas. Ken-A-Set ran the Waterville recycling center before that merger; the city of Waterville ran it before Ken-A-Set took over, Davis said.

He said Skills officials like running the recycling operation and he feels badly about it stopping, but the organization really has no choice.

“It’s not a happy decision, but it’s a necessary one,” he said.

He said he is glad Waterville will continue the recycling.

“I’m delighted that people are going to still have options.”

Amy Calder — 861-9247
[email protected]


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