China considering regional trash collection system

by Mary Grow

China Transfer Station Committee members are considering advocating for a regional trash collection system based in China, if the new owners of what was the Fiberight facility in Hampden don’t get their act together soon.

The plant, owned by Coastal Resources, closed in May 2020. On Jan. 19, 2021, the Municipal Review Committee (MRC), the group representing 115 municipalities that used the facility, announced that Pennsylvania-based Delta Thermo Energy (DTE) was buying the plant.

The MRC notice said closing the deal was expected to take up to 70 days, and after closing DTE would need four to six weeks to start operating.

At the April 13 China Transfer Station Committee meeting, Selectman and Transfer Station Committee member Irene Belanger, who represents China on the MRC, said the arrangement is not yet final, and after weeks of almost daily reports she had heard nothing for two weeks.

Transfer Station Committee Chairman Larry Sikora called MRC meetings “non-informational,” mostly in executive session (not open to public viewing). He also believes DTE “padded their resume.” A knowledgeable German friend denied DTE’s claim to have a recycling facility in Dresden, Germany, Sikora said.

Committee member Mark Davis suggested exploring whether other municipalities would be interested in a non-MRC arrangement. Or, he said, maybe China’s transfer station, which already takes Palermo’s trash, could become a regional center, adding, for example, Vassalboro, to save that town the cost of proposed transfer station improvements.

Town Manager Becky Hapgood suggested partnering with Albion instead, given the distance from northwestern and southwestern Vassalboro to Alder Park Road, in China. She wondered whether too many new users would inconvenience China residents.

Committee members left the regionalization issue to be reconsidered if the Hampden facility does not reopen.

The rest of the April 13 committee discussion focused on the local transfer station: hours, recycling and the currently closed Free for the Taking (FFT) building.

Committee member Ashley Farrington had prepared a chart of hour-by-hour Saturday attendance, showing few people came in between 6:30 and 7 a.m.; 10 to 11 a.m. was the busiest hour; and a fair number of people used the transfer station from 1 p.m. to the 3 p.m. closing.

The lack of early-morning users led Sikora and Davis to propose opening at 7 a.m. instead of 6:30 p.m. and closing at 4 p.m. instead of 3 p.m. With the change, Davis argued, people doing waste-generating Saturday projects would have another hour before they had to rush to the transfer station.

Farrington, who worked at the transfer station before moving to the town office staff, said the early-morning Saturday hours are important to most of the people who stop in then, because they’re on the way to Saturday jobs and cannot come later.

Transfer Station Manager Ronald Marois opposed staying open until 4 p.m. Whatever the closing time, he said, people come at the last minute with big loads, and he and his staff continue working well after the gates close. Since many families schedule Saturday late-afternoon celebrations, he would prefer a 3 p.m. closing.

Hapgood pointed out that use varies seasonally, leading committee members Karen Hatch and Davis to suggest different hours summer and winter. Then everyone would need to adjust to fall and spring changes, Hapgood objected.

Committee members will try to get more statistics on times of use and revisit the topic at a later meeting.

“Nothing will make everybody happy,” Farrington concluded.

Farrington had submitted China’s biennial report to the state Department of Environmental Protection. By her figures, China’s 2020 recycling rate was 52.85 percent, lower than 2019’s rate of 67.69 percent, but still, Sikora said, very good.

Robert Kurek, Palermo’s representative on the committee, pointed out that eliminating plastics numbered three through seven (due to lack of markets) had reduced recycling rates.

The FFT building has been closed due to Covid. Committee members are looking for alternative ways to share reusable items and are considering ways to reopen the building safely. They made no decisions.

One problem is that, according to Selectman Ronald Breton at the April 12 selectmen’s meeting, transfer station users are ignoring the requirement to wear masks when outside their vehicles.

Other regulations are also ignored. For example, when employees are busy non-residents without China RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) tags slip in and dispose illegally; and trash is left in wrong areas.

Marois said staff has worked successfully at reducing problems. People don’t like the regulations, he said; but cheating costs China taxpayers money, and, Sikora observed, “nobody likes paying taxes, either.”

Committee members scheduled their next meeting for 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, May 11, according to the calendar on the Town of China website.


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