BOWDOINHAM — Bowdoinham’s recycling program has run in a former chicken barn on Post Road and is considered a social center. Now its future is in question.

The town has leased space in what is known as the Recycling Barn on Post Road for 30 years. Residents would bring their cans, plastic containers and bottles and scrap metal at no cost. They would pay to dispose of solid waste, including items like tires and refrigerators. The barn also takes household items like clothing, books or furniture residents can take for free.

The town closed the barn and suspended curbside recycling in September because the building was unsafe, according to an engineering firm hired by the town to inspect the building. The town temporarily moved recycling to the public works department on Pond Road.

Barn owner David Berry — also the town’s former solid waste director — said there is talk about building a brand new solid waste and recycling facility near the public works department.

“The chances of the program staying exactly the same — it’s hard to tell,” Berry said.

He worries that people will stop recycling in the meantime, however. More dumpsters have already popped up around town, he said.


The recycling market has gone a little topsy-turvy, Berry said.  China has stopped taking many kinds of recyclable material from the U.S. That caused the cost of single-stream recycling — materials the town doesn’t have to sort — to skyrocket from $5 to $150 a ton, Berry said.

Resident Betsy Steen said Tuesday that she is still upset the recycling barn was closed and the operation was moved. The recycling barn is more than a recycling center, she said.

“It’s really a community center. People have habits. My sister and I go Saturday mornings,” Steen said. “It was just a delightful place and sometimes people took (items) right out of your hand as you brought them in.”

Steen started a Facebook group for those who want to save the barn and started taking donations through the town’s historical society to address the building’s safety issues. She argued it would cost less to upgrade the recycling barn than build a new building.

Berry said Tuesday that he is repairing the barn to make it safe for the winter, and that work should be completed in January.

Cathy Curtis, chairperson of Bowdoinham’s new solid waste and recycling committee, expects the committee will examine costs for remaining in the recycling barn versus building a new facility.

Residents will be surveyed the first week of January about what services they want to see included in the solid waste and recycling program, Curtis said.

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