HAMPDEN — The process to build Fiberight’s Coastal Resources of Maine plant has been a laborious one, but as construction at the facility enters its final phases, Fiberight CEO Craig Stuart-Paul offered that the end result would ultimately be a “game-changer” and worth the wait to Maine communities.
“You’re looking at the next generation of recycling,” Stuart-Paul said. “With this plant you’ll see an evolution in knowledge of how you build recycling plants.”
At a tour of the facility on Sept. 18, Stuart-Paul detailed progress on installation of the Materials Recovery Facility (MRF), which will sort recyclable products. The MRF will use cameras to optically sort material.
“The system can automatically recognize what’s plastic and what’s paper. It separates it on a conveyor,” Stuart-Paul said. “The cameras look at it, and if it’s plastic it goes one way and if it’s paper it goes another way.”
Stuart-Paul also emphasized that the optic sorting technology could learn to sort for specific items as small as a Keurig cup.
“We’ve got so many opportunities to use machines to look at the waste and pick things out of it,” Stuart-Paul said. “Once we understand what’s in the waste stream we can continue fine tuning it to get out whatever we can. That’s our argument as to why it’s been worth the wait.”
As it travels through the MRF, recyclable material will be sorted by type. Paper products will be sent to a pulper and turned into pulp that can go directly to a paper mill. Plastics can be turned into solid fuel pellets.
Fiberight anticipates that construction of the MRF should be complete by the end of the month, at a cost of $11.5 million. Remaining components of the organic waste disposal portion of the facility are anticipated to arrive by mid-October.
From there, the question becomes what the best practices are for the facility — originally scheduled to open last April — to begin accepting solid waste and recycling from communities that are members of the Municipal Review Committee (MRC).
“Whilst I know everyone wants a firm date, what I’m telling you is that we’re working with MRC and the communities, and we’re trying to figure out how we can meet the needs of those communities,” Stuart-Paul said.
MRC has been sending its municipal solid waste to the Juniper Ridge Landfill (JRL) in Old Town under an agreement with the landfill’s operator, Casella Waste. While that agreement was initially schedule to expire in October, it will now continue through to the end of the year.
“MRC has reached a final agreement with Casella and Fiberight/Coastal to reserve capacity at JRL for member communities currently delivering there so that they may continue to do so until the end of the year,” said MRC Executive Director Greg Lounder. “This is the latest product of our efforts to work together in an integrated fashion to transition the region to the new MSW recycling and processing facility well under construction in Hampden.”
MRC this week also finalized cash distributions to departing members, including $896,070.92 to six towns in Hancock and Washington counties.
In Hancock and Washington counties, current members of the MRC include Blue Hill/Surry, Cherryfield, Dedham, Franklin, Mariaville, Otis, Sorrento, Steuben and Sullivan.
At the Fiberight plant, Stuart-Paul explained that the calculus now is whether to partially open the plant or to wait until both the recycling and solid waste portions are complete to begin operations. That’s an issue complicated by factors such as the presence of building materials on the floor of the plant and further construction timelines.
“The question is if we can get the whole thing going to the maximal amount of recovery, is that best for all? We think so, but we don’t have the exact date as to when that would be. That’s the calculus we’re trying to come up with,” Stuart-Paul said. “The analysis is going to be two to three weeks out.”
Fiberight is expected to provide a general schedule to MRC on Sept. 21 before a final decision on an opening date is reached.