As the manager of the Ogunquit Transfer Station, I am writing in support of L.D. 1541, An Act to Support and Improve Municipal Recycling Programs and Save Taxpayer Money, which was presented at a public hearing on May 10 before the Legislature’s Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, and would make manufacturers responsible for the waste created by their packaging.

The community I have lived and worked in for over 20 years has demonstrated its strong commitment to the environment and recycling. As manager of the transfer station, it is very frustrating to hear residents tell us that recycling has become too confusing. They are discouraged when we try and explain that because of escalating costs we can no longer take everything they are told is recyclable, and that less and less of their waste can be recovered.

Our minimal staff devotes a great deal of their time in one-on-one interaction with people, as we feel this gives us the best chance of helping lessen the confusion. Our attendants monitor the recycling area very closely, but we are still seeing people struggle to separate what can be recycled and put it in the proper container, regardless of signage and instruction. Many people who were recycling no longer do so.

 On the operations level, we do not have the infrastructure to allow for the recycling of mixed paper, which needs to be bailed and kept dry, and we struggled for two years to find a place that will recycle glass. We are being charged a handling fee to recycle 40-yard containers of No. 1 PET and No. 2 HDPE plastics that we carefully separate and also for cardboard, which along with high-hauling costs negates any return of value to the town for those commodities. This is despite the help finding outlets that we receive through membership with the Maine Resource and Recycling Association.

We are now in the process of going to Pay As You Throw to try and recover some of these increasing costs — and this has increased the level of frustration on all sides, because at the same time we also have to tell them to throw more of what was recycling into the trash. Our contract with Casella/Pine Tree Waste will end in 2021 and if nothing changes we must realistically expect a dramatic increase in the cost of waste disposal seen in neighboring towns.

I have heard the waste stream described as circular. Each of the sections of that circle — manufacturers, consumers, recyclers, transfer stations, material recovery facilities — are interconnected. Only at the manufacturing section do we not see that this breakdown in recycling is increasing costs.

Wasteful packaging increases entropy and cost at each of those other stages. I cannot forget hearing at a conference the speaker from a large corporation expounding on how soon all their packaging would be recyclable. When I explained to him how people trying to recycle at the transfer station struggle just to read those small numbers, he dismissed it, saying that the sorting machines can distinguish the types of plastics — I then heard another speaker, the CEO of a large material recovery facility, complain that they can find no outlet for them.

The MRFs are trying to manage the huge amounts of it and pass the increased cost down. The towns need to budget to manage this material. The consumer cannot avoid the packaging or pass the costs down, and unless something changes we can only expect increasing levels of frustration and waste from those who we know would much rather be recycling and reducing that waste.

From my perspective, L.D. 1541 seems to be a sensible way to remind manufacturers that even if their products are recyclable it costs money to recycle them, and that if the materials are not recyclable, they need to reduce the use of it — and help pay to get rid of it.

John Fusco is manager of the Ogunquit Transfer Station.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.