ELLSWORTH — Twenty-three municipalities in Hancock County that belong to the Municipal Review Committee (MRC) are reluctantly taking their waste to landfills.
By this summer, that should change. Fiberight’s long-delayed Coastal Resources of Maine waste processing plant in Hampden plans to open its doors for the first time this spring.
“The bottom line is that we are still on track to begin accepting waste in April,” Shelby Wright, director of community services with Fiberight, said Tuesday. “We’ll begin ramping up operations in April, and then it is a three-month process to bring all MRC communities on board.”
Construction of Fiberight’s $69 million facility began in July 2017. An initial opening date of April 2018 was subsequently pushed back to October 2018, then January 2019, and finally to April 2019. The company has cited winter weather and a lawsuit filed by the Penobscot Energy Recovery Co. (PERC) as reasons for the delays.
PERC had been supplying waste disposal services to MRC municipalities for many years.
“Construction is moving along at a rapid clip,” Wright said. “Every day they’re getting closer to completion. The pulpers are in, the wash tunnels are in and the roof has been closed.”
The “pulpers” referred to are part of Fiberight’s system for waste disposal. All waste arrives in a single stream, before curbside-style recyclables are separated from organic waste, which is then turned into biofuel, which is similar to natural gas. Recyclables also can be sold as commodities.
With Fiberight’s opening now delayed a full year, the MRC, which represents 115 municipalities in Maine, has been forced to send its waste to the Juniper Ridge Landfill in Old Town. This also has coincided with a downturn in the global recycling market. As a result, many smaller communities have begun eliminating their recycling programs, and an increasing amount of recyclable material is being sent to landfills.
Fiberight’s opening will extend over three stages, with all MRC members theoretically sending their waste to the facility by the end of June.
“Initially we’re going to start with recycling to commission the facility, and then move on to municipal solid waste,” Wright said. “Our estimate is that in that first month, we’ll be taking in about 1,600 tons of material, then about 5,000 tons in May, and then around 7,900 tons by the third month.”
Once the entire MRC has been brought onboard, Wright said the facility could begin receiving other contracts to handle commercial waste. A timeline for when and how each individual MRC member will begin sending waste to Fiberight is still being finalized.
“We’re working with each of those communities individually to facilitate that process,” Wright said. “It’s a very complicated process to figure this all out, but if they haven’t been contacted already, they will be shortly.”
Wright also noted that Fiberight had begun the hiring process for administrative positions.