The long anticipated trash-to-fuel facility in Hampden met its contract with more than 100 municipalities at the beginning of November and will now begin to offer disposal services to other communities and commercial waste haulers, officials said.

While the plant, owned by Fiberight LLC, has started to make biogas, the product is not yet at a marketable quality, according to spokesperson Shelby Wright. Getting to that point will be a “lengthy and long” process, said Wright, noting that multiple agencies are involved with testing and permitting biofuel to make sure it is safe to transfer via pipeline.

“But we are making more than we anticipated, at a faster rate, which is a positive,” Wright said.

Waste and baled recyclables in Fiberight’s Hampden waste recovery plant. Courtesy of Fiberight/Coastal Resources of Maine

The plant, called Coastal Resources of Maine, cleared tests that ensured it could process 400 tons of municipal solid waste a day and divert more than 50% of trash from the waste stream on Nov. 1.

While Wright said Fiberight is pleased with those results, it is looking to improve. The Municipal Review Committee, a coalition of 83 municipalities that sponsored the development of the Fiberight plant and which owns the land on which it rests and partnered with the company to send all of its trash there, stated on its website that its goal is for the facility to divert up to 80% of waste.

“Just like any facility in its first six months, we’re still experiencing hiccups, but we’re up and operating and accepting municipal solid waste,” Wright said. “We will continue to tweak the process and perfect it as we go forward. We’re still young and new, and we will be improving our capacity and diversion rates going forward.”

While Coastal Resources of Maine was cleared to pursue contracts with other clients Nov. 1, Wright said it has not yet secured any deals outside of the MRC and a handful of commercial waste haulers it had already been in talks with.

Employees of Fiberight oversee the waste-processing system in Hampden. The company hired over 50 people in the last year to work at the facility. Courtesy of Fiberight/Coastal Resources of Maine

The Hampden plant was riddled with delays as it prepared to get off the ground and an initial estimate predicted it would be fully operational by mid-2018. Construction hold ups and a competitor’s legal challenge to the company’s environmental permits pushed its start date from April 2018 to May 2019, causing partner towns to haul waste to landfills for nominal fees for more than a year longer than anticipated.

Now, all 115 of the towns and cities that make up the Municipal Review Committee are sending their residents’ trash to Hampden, where plastics, cardboard, aluminum and glass are picked out of loads and resold and other material is made into paper pulp, plastic fuel briquettes or biogas. The number of participating municipalities was initially more than 115 before delays catalyzed some towns to drop out of the deal.

Oakland, China, Vassalboro, Albion, Unity and Thorndike are the MRC member towns remaining in central Maine. As of September, most of those towns had not been able to send all of their municipal waste to the plant, but now, that is no longer the case.

“We are proud to have played a role in bringing this innovative recycling and waste processing technology to Maine,” said Karen Fussell, president of the MRC’s board and finance director for Brewer, in a Nov. 26 news release. “The MRC is pleased to certify Coastal’s passage of the facility’s required performance test and to acknowledge the formal start of commercial operations earlier this month. The MRC and its member communities look forward to working with Coastal as it continuously improves its operations and strives to further enhance its recycling and diversion rates.”

Wright echoed that sentiment.

“This is a milestone for the facility, and now our next step is to successfully market our products and move forward,” Wright said.

The performance tests were overseen by representatives of the Municipal Review Committee and a third-party engineering firm, SCS Engineers, over the course of three days, according to Wright.


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